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Finding Happiness (part 2)

Matthew 5:4

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“Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.” (HCSB) 

 This text makes no sense at first reading.  Is Jesus actually saying that the second step in the quest for happiness is to mourn?  I checked to see if there might be some significance to the Greek word used for mourn that might explain the meaning a bit, and found that the word is a fairly intense word that is translated wail in a couple places in the New Testament.  Jesus is saying exactly what He appears to be saying here—mourning is the second step toward happiness.

 Certainly the promise to be comforted is significant, but it isn’t the primary thrust of the verse.  Jesus didn’t say happy are those who are comforted, even though they mourn.  He said, Happy are those who mourn.  This leads me to ask, “Who are these happy mourners and what are they mourning about?”

 Obviously, Jesus isn’t talking about the type of grief Paul wrote about in the second half of 2 Corinthians 7:10 “…but worldly grief produces death.” (HCSB)

 That is the grief Rachel exhibited in Genesis 30:1 “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob [any children], she envied her sister. ‘Give me sons, or I will die!’ she said to Jacob.” (HCSB)  Jacob worked seven years to win Rachel’s love.  I don’t mean he courted her for seven years, I mean that for seven years he did work for her father in exchange for the right to marry Rachel.  The morning after his wedding there was mourning--he discovered Leah, not Rachel in his bed.  His father-in-law tricked him and pawned weak-eyed Leah off on Jacob.  Jacob wasn’t happy.  Genesis 29:17 gives us a clue why, “And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.” (NASB95)  In short, Rachel had a killer body and the face of an angel, while Leah was weak-eyed.  Perhaps that means she needed to visit the optometrist, or perhaps it was a delicate way of saying she didn’t have a killer body and the face of an angel like her sister.

 Jacob agreed to work for another seven years for Rachel’s hand, but this time got his payment up front.  But Genesis 30:1 indicates that all was not well in paradise.  Not only did Rachel have to share her husband with her sister, but weak-eyed Leah was giving Jacob children while she wasn’t.  It grieved her to the point of death.

 No one in the right mind would think Rachel was happy.  She wasn’t.  She was so sad that she was ready to die.

 Proverbs 18:14 says, “A man’s spirit can endure sickness, but who can survive a broken spirit?” (HCSB)

 King Ahab experienced a similar grief when Naboth wouldn’t sell him a piece of Real Estate he wanted.  1 Kings 21:4 “So Ahab went to his palace resentful and angry, because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had told him. He had said, ‘I will not give you my fathers’ inheritance.’ He lay down on his bed, turned his face away, and didn’t eat any food.” (HCSB)

 Now this is a pretty sight, isn’t it?  King Ahab wasn’t able to close a Real Estate deal so he pouted and went to bed early without his supper.  I would imagine that no one entered his chambers and asked the King, “Why are you so happy today?”  He was experiencing the grief that leads to death. 

 His wife did enter his chambers.  Listen to what she said, “Then his wife Jezebel said to him, ‘Now, exercise your royal power over Israel. Get up, eat some food, and be happy. [For] I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’” (1 Kings 21:7 HCSB)  She didn’t comment on him being happy, she told him to get happy.

 Unfortunately, this grief ended in death for Naboth.

 The grief that leads to happiness doesn’t spring from a dark shroud of disappointment. Disappointments come to everyone, happy people; balanced people are able to take them in stride. A happy person has a large capacity to deal with disappointment without longing for death.  The secret to that is found in the first step of happiness—being poor in spirit.  Only the haughty feel that life owes them anything.  Rachel probably spent her whole life thinking she was better than Leah.  I suspect her struggle with infertility sanded some rough edges off of her soul.  Certainly Ahab was arrogant and thoughtless.  He was willing to take Naboth’s inheritance—something that meant everything to Naboth—just so he would have one more piece of real estate.  However, a visit from the prophet turned Ahab’s heart.

 1 Kings 21:27-29 says, “When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth and walked around subdued. [28] Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: [29] ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? I will not bring the disaster during his lifetime, because he has humbled himself before Me. I will bring the disaster on his house during his son’s lifetime.’” (HCSB)

 This passage provides some insight into the kind of mourning that Jesus talked about when He said, “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted.”  There is a difference in the type of mourning Ahab did when Naboth told him “no” and the type of mourning he did when Elijah confronted him with his sin.  This type his mourning sprung from the knowledge of his spiritual poverty and led to humility.  And I believe that is the key to understanding Jesus’ words.  Taken out of context, Matthew 5:4 doesn’t make sense, but laid on top of Matthew 5:3, it makes perfect sense.  People who know they are spiritually bankrupt will grieve over their sins.  Here’s the important question, “How can sinful people be truly happy?”  The answer is, only when they admit their sinfulness and allow it to break their hearts.  Because only when we mourn over our sins can we come under God’s control, pursue righteousness and take our next steps we need to take in our journey toward happiness.  Happiness isn’t the absence of grief—it is the proper use of grief. 

 Earlier we read the second part of 2 Corinthians 7:10 about worldly grief producing death, now let’s read the entire passage. 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 says, “For godly grief produces a repentance not to be regretted and leading to salvation, but worldly grief produces death. [11] For consider how much diligence this very thing—this grieving as God wills—has produced in you: what a desire to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what deep longing, what zeal, what justice! In every way you have commended yourselves to be pure in this matter.” (HCSB)

 Judas was grieved over his sin, but it didn’t produce repentance and salvation.  Matthew 27:3-5 says, “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was full of remorse and returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. [4] ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,’ he said. ‘What’s that to us?’ they said. ‘See to it yourself!’ [5] So he threw the silver into the sanctuary and departed. Then he went and hanged himself.” (HCSB)

 His grief led to death, not repentance.  He confessed his sin, but didn’t repent from it.  Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe-bomber” pled guilty for attempting to blow up American Airlines flight 63 on December 22, 2001 with explosives stuffed in his shoe.  After going over each count against him, Chief U.S. District Judge William Young asked Reid why he was pleading guilty.  He answered, “Because at the end of the day,” Reid said, “I know that I done the actions.”

 But it is one thing to admit you’ve done something and another thing to disavow yourself from your past and determine to turn over a new leaf. Judge Young warned Reid that he would weigh the government’s claim that he has al Qaeda links when he passes judgment on him. Reid responded, “I’m a disciple of Osama bin Laden. I’m an enemy of your country. I don’t care.”


 Reid’s confession wasn’t enough. And neither will it be enough at the Judgment Day to come. On that day, Reid’s only hope–our only hope–will be if we repented of our sins and placed our faith in Jesus before we got there.

 Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”  (NASB) Godly grief leads to repentance and salvation.  Paul wrote, “Now I am rejoicing, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us.” (2 Corinthians 7:9 HCSB)

 Have you experienced the grief that leads to repentance?  If not, will you do more than admit your sin, will your repent from it today and turn to Christ?

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