“Happy Are Those Who Mourn”—Why?
“HAPPY are those who mourn”? “What a contradiction!” someone may well exclaim upon reading those words in Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Mourning and happy at the same time? How can that be?
A little reflection, however, will make it plain. True, among the many definitions of the word “happy” is “having the feeling arising from the consciousness of well-being”; and among its synonyms are gay, cheerful, pleasant, glad and joyous. However, “happy” also has a deeper meaning, such as fortunate, or, from the Bible viewpoint, “favored by God.” It is this weightier meaning that attaches to Jesus’ words: “Happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted.”—Matt. 5:4.
That Jesus had this thought in mind is apparent from the meaning of the Greek word makarios. It was used in the writings of pagan Greeks to refer to the highest, the greatest, the noblest state of felicity or happiness, the kind that their gods were supposed to experience. Appropriately, therefore, we find this word applied by the apostle Paul to Jehovah God, “the happy God,” and to Jesus Christ, “the happy and only Potentate.” Fittingly, therefore, in the New World Translation, makarios is rendered “happy,” not “blessed”; there is another Greek word for “blessed,” namely, eulogetós, from which we get the word “eulogy” and which means to praise, to speak well of, to bless.—1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15.
Why can it be stated that those who mourn are happy, that theirs is a favored lot? Was Jesus here stating a general principle, that all who mourn, regardless of the reason, are happy? No, such does not seem to be the case, especially in view of the context. All the other “happinesses” or “beatitudes” he mentioned in his sermon on the mount are states in which there is some virtue or merit, such as being ‘conscious of one’s spiritual need,’ being “mild-tempered,” “hungering and thirsting for righteousness,” being “merciful” and “pure in heart.” So we must conclude that, not those who mourn for just any reason, but those whose reason for mourning has virtue or merit are the ones that Jesus said would be comforted.—Matt. 5:3-11.
That not all mourners will be comforted is clear from the Word of God, the Bible. Esau, one of the sons of the Hebrew patriarch Isaac, mourned because he failed to receive the firstborn’s blessing. But was he comforted? No, for “when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected, . . . although he earnestly sought a change of mind with tears, he found no place for it.” He was not comforted because of his “not appreciating sacred things.” Likewise the traitor Judas mourned his deed of betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver but was unable to get the comfort of forgiveness because his sin was willful; his heart was bad, and so he committed suicide.—Heb. 12:16, 17; Matt. 27:3-10.
The mourners who are happy are those who sincerely mourn because of the apparent triumph of unrighteousness in themselves and in their surroundings, and whose sins are due to inherited weakness. For example, there was the woman known to be a sinner who came to a home where Jesus was a guest and who wet Jesus’ feet with her tears, wiped them dry with her hair and then anointed them with perfumed oil. No question about her mourning. Was she comforted? She certainly was, for Jesus said of her: “Her sins, many though they are, are forgiven, because she loved much.” And then addressing her, he said: “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go your way in peace.”—Luke 7:36-50.
And then there were the two disciples whom Jesus met on the way to Emmaus on the morning of his resurrection. They were mourning Jesus’ death, for they had been “hoping that this man was the one destined to deliver Israel” from the Roman yoke. Jesus comforted them by interpreting “to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” Well could they afterward say: “Were not our hearts burning as he was speaking to us on the road, as he was fully opening up the Scriptures to us?”—Luke 24:13-32.
That not just any mourners are happy is apparent from Bible prophecies. Thus the prophet Isaiah foretold that Jehovah’s anointed servant, primarily Jesus Christ, was commissioned to “comfort all the mourning ones.” But was he to comfort all mourners regardless of the cause of their mourning? No, for the prophecy goes on to say that “the oil of exultation instead of mourning” was to be given to “those mourning over Zion.” Yes, Jesus was not commissioned to comfort literally all mourners, but primarily all those who were distressed over the wretched spiritual condition in which God’s people found themselves.—Isa. 61:1-3; Luke 4:18-21.
The prophet Ezekiel also wrote of a class of mourners to whom Jesus’ words apply: “The men that are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things that are being done in the midst of [Jerusalem].” (Ezek. 9:4) The facts show that this prophecy has peculiar application today, when lovers of righteousness are mourning the conditions prevailing especially in Christendom. These are being comforted by having “this good news of the kingdom” preached to them by the witnesses of Jehovah.—Matt. 24:14.
This good news tells of God’s Son taking away the sin of the world, so that all who exercise faith in him can have their sins forgiven and so no longer need to mourn over them. (John 1:29; 3:16) It also tells of the establishment of God’s kingdom in the heavens and that soon now it will take action against Satan and all who do his bidding. This will result in ridding the earth not only of all wickedness but also of all sorrow, suffering, death, yes, all grounds for mourning. This message even tells of a resurrection of the dead, providing comfort for those mourning the loss of loved ones, but, of course, only if they exercise faith in God’s provision of the resurrection.—Rev. 11:15-18; 20:13; 21:4.
Yes, “happy are those who mourn, since they will be comforted,” if they have the right heart condition and are mourning over the right things!