In response to my article, Why Did Jesus Say Blessed Are Those That Mourn, I received a question asking when will we be comforted? In this life or the hereafter?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I think the best way to answer this question is to first understand the context of this teaching.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
This teaching is part of the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount can be summarized into one central theme – discipleship. All the teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount address what it means to be a disciple. They are teachings for those who are children of God living like they are children of God.
The Sermon instructs followers to be salt and light. It teaches how to have a righteousness that exceeds the pharisees. It explains how to pray and where to lay up your treasures. It talks about not judging and entering the Kingdom of God.
If we look at the beatitudes, or blessings, that begin the sermon, they too depict the characteristics of children of God. From these blessings, we see the following characteristics:
- poor in spirit (not too proud to obey God)
- meekness (the power to act but choosing not to)
- hungering for righteousness (yearning to please God)
- mercy (being merciful to others as God is merciful)
- purity of heart (not just actions, but the thoughts of their heart also)
- peacemakers (those who seek to be reconciled to God and to others)
- persecuted for serving God and simply because you follow Jesus
Notice every one of these characteristics have to do with being a disciple of Jesus, keeping his teachings, and being perfect as God is perfect (see Matthew 5:48). In fact, every teaching in the Sermon on the Mount that follows the beatitudes/blessings can fit into one of the blessings.
Example 1: The teaching on fasting and prayer fits nicely into the teaching of purity of heart. It’s not your outward actions that matter, it’s what is in your heart. So, don’t fast or pray to be seen by others. If you are fasting and praying to be seen, then your heart is not pure.
Example 2: Turn the cheek fits nicely into meekness. By law, if someone strikes you on the cheek, you have every right to strike them back. Jesus says just because you have the power to act doesn’t mean you should. That is meekness. Live that way, you will be blessed.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MOURNING AND COMFORTING?
I intentionally did not list that teaching with the others. Here’s why? When we understand the blessings as characteristic of discipleship then the teaching about mourning takes on a new meaning. Mourning in this context becomes about a deep sorrow over sinfulness, particularly in your own life. Mourning is a regret for all the years you lived your life in contradiction to God’s will for you.
Mourning should lead to repentance. Your grief should lead you to change your life and bring it into alignment with God’s will.
HOW DOES THAT BRING COMFORT?
First, we receive the forgiveness offered to us through Christ for all the past sins of our life. God’s word teaches that God cast our sins as far as the east is from the west. The Bible proclaims that the blood of Christ covers our sins; no longer to be seen. So, we rejoice in this forgiveness. Rejoicing is comforting.
Second, because we are now forgiven, we bring our lives into alignment with God’s will. We now can walk through life knowing we are living in accordance to his plan for us. That too is comforting.
Of course, if we return to our old ways, we will experience that grief again. Also noteworthy is that Satan doesn’t want you to realize your forgiveness. Sometimes we carry grief that Jesus has already set us free from. He removed it but we put it back on. This also makes Satan happy.
We find comfort in knowing we are God’s children though the forgiveness of sin and that Christ has shown us the way. This is called faith.
We can also have comfort in knowing that if we are persecuted for being his disciple and living as he taught, then one day we will truly be rewarded in heaven.
So, the answer to our question is both. We are comforted in the present life and in the one to come. However, the teaching is about discipleship – being a child of God and a follower of Jesus.