Present Comfort

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Is this an oxymoron, an example of two apparently contradictory terms appearing in conjunction? At first reading, it seems to say, “happy are the unhappy”!

Sharon Mccutcheon P3ijy9jmsiu Unsplash

When I was 15, an “only child”, my 42-year-old mother died of cancer. At the time my mourning was “raw”, but even now, after so many years, I still mourn. I do not consider the mourning, in itself, was a blessing or a source of happiness. It would be disingenuous for me to be in denial.

The reality is that, in this world, our happiness in Christ will be punctuated by sorrow – we are not exempt from the things common to man. Paul wrote that believers are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10): somehow they have an abiding happiness even in suffering. Amy Carmichael said, “We are called to a settled happiness in the Lord whose joy is our strength”.

The promise of future comfort is our source of present comfort. Our perspective of the eternal informs us of a true and ultimate happiness that we can anticipate now. The day hasn’t yet come when God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). But it will.

The Lord Jesus announced, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21). Those who, on that crucifixion Friday, wept around the tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea experienced this happiness on the first day of the week when Christ arose.

The Lord is described as “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3); and while this includes His tears at the grave of Lazarus (John 11:35), it broadens out to describe His mourning over other matters, such as the unrepentant city of Jerusalem (Luke 13:34). Yet even when enduring the cross, He had “joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).

He who in His hour of sorrow
  Bore the curse alone;
I who through the lonely desert
  Trod where He had gone;
He and I, in that bright glory,
  One deep joy shall share—
Mine, to be forever with Him;
  His, that I am there.

We cannot always find happiness in our present circumstances, nor should we try.  Instead, we look beyond these difficult circumstances to Christ as, in the most unlikely moments, His grace brings light into our darkness and even smiles to our faces.