This is a guest post by Heather Teis
“Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4
As a child, I thought this verse merely reminded us that we serve the God of all comfort. This is true. He does heal our hurts and bind up our broken hearts, however, there is so much more in this Scripture. It teaches that it is proper and right to mourn over loss. When a loved one dies, it’s good to cry. When an opportunity is lost, it’s right to sorrow. When sin is committed, it’s proper to grieve and mourn.
The path to freedom and joy always starts with mourning. Salvation begins with a mourning over what we have done – our guilt, our shame. Then, through that grief yielded to God, comes forgiveness, acceptance, and joy. This process does not grow dim through the years of our Christian life, but actually grows more poignant. As I continue to recognize my sin for what it is with no excuses, as I mourn for the pain it inflicted upon my Lord and the damage it does to me and those I love, I can weep in confession to Him, and through that grief, find cleansing and joy (Psalm 51).
Mourning over sin is precisely what James was speaking of in his letter to Christians of the first century. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” James 4:8-10
So mourning over our sins and the sins of others is a good thing, right? So when is the time not to mourn?
1. After confession and restoration to the Father is made.
Mourning is hazardous when we continue to lament mistakes made after we have repented. Note that repentance includes a change in behavior. A woman once wrote to her Bible teacher that she had left her husband and had moved in with another man. After listening to the lesson on God’s forgiveness, she had prayed and confessed her sin, but could not seem to accept God’s forgiveness and was plagued with guilt. Her question was how to get rid of the guilt. The problem was not guilt, but rather conviction. She had confessed her sin of leaving her husband, but was neglecting the necessary action of stopping the sin of adultery in living with another man!
However, many of us struggle with continually lamenting past sins. The whole point of mourning over sin is the joy of restoration with the Father. Take the Prodigal Son for example. He returned to the Father in sorrow. Once he came, forgiveness was waiting, and the celebration began. Friend, if you are living in grief over the mistakes you have made in the past, stop it. The time for mourning passed when you came to the Father. He paid the ultimate price for those mistakes, so you no longer need to carry them on your shoulders. When a sobering reminder of those travesties come to you, shed the spirit of heaviness, and put on the garment of praise. Thank God for His mercy and for the promises throughout His Word that He can even use those mistakes to make something good. (Rom. 8:28)
2. When mourning for another is keeping your from the work God has for you.
This has been difficult for me. In pastoring, you tend to see the same sins repeated time and again, and surprisingly, no matter how different the individuals and situations may be, when they head down the same path as the person before them, the destination is always the same. The problem I faced is that I would carry other people’s sins around on my shoulders.
A shepherd does have the beautiful picture of the high priests bearing the names of God’s people on his shoulders and over his heart. So ought we bring those placed in our care before the Father. But what do we do when one chooses to walk away from the truth toward destruction? I don’t know what you do, but I would get physically sick and so distraught that my entire week was spent replaying the situations, the decisions, the mistakes, and trying to rewrite the all-too-certain ending.
But then I found a friend who shared my struggle. His name is Samuel. Here was a man who watched a spiritual child fall away. And like me, his heart was broken.
“And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul:” I Sam. 15:35
Samuel’s heart was broken for Saul. Funny thing is that Saul probably thought Samuel hated him or was off telling the other prophets about this foolish king. Yet, Samuel mourned for Saul. He was broken; he hurt for the loss of righteousness in Saul’s life.
If you are part of a church family (and I hope you are!) know this: Your pastor and his wife love you and your family. They are invested in you, and it is not a light thing to them the choices that you make. You may think they don’t care and that you can do what you want without them giving you a second thought. Not true! They carry you on their shoulders and across their hearts.
But to those who shepherd the hearts of others, whether you are in the pastorate, a ministry or care group leader, a mother, a teacher, a discipler – there is a time to mourn and there is a time move on.
“And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.” I Sam. 16:1
I read this passage years ago when I was struggling with the loss of a sister in Christ who had chosen to walk away from her family and her God. We had counseled, we had prayed, we had done all we could, but I was still mourning just like my friend Samuel. Here we were, both of us, with work the Lord had for us to do, just waiting for us to get out of the ashes. I had children who needed a joyful mother, a husband who needed an undistracted wife, and other ladies in our church who needed a pastor’s wife who could be optimistic about their spiritual future. My mourning was not going to bring change in that individual’s life. It was time to get up and do the work at hand.
Since that time, I have had the privilege of ministering to both Sauls and Davids. And as long as God calls me to it, I gladly will. But in the end, I have found that it is profitable for me, and for those under my care, to spend more time rejoicing in the Davids than I do mourning over the Sauls.
Isaiah 61:3 (God will) appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that they might be called the trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.