Blessed are those who mourn
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Mt. 5:4
What is the type of mourning that our Lord blesses? Certainly, it includes mourning over sin. It is the product of poverty of spirit – that, as we see our spiritual impoverishment before God, our sinfulness and dirtiness before God Almighty, we will grieve. Godly grief, as Paul defines it, is a grief over sins that leads to repentance. That is what God blesses. It leads to salvation, the greatest blessing of all.
It is the type of grief that David expresses after his great sin (Ps. 51:1-4). It is not a mourning over sin because we have been caught, or merely because of the consequences of our sins, but because sin is a spiritually disfiguring thing. Sin blocks fellowship with God, puts distance between us and the source of true joy and happiness. Note that David does not mention Bathsheba or Uriah; he says rather that “against you [God], you only, have I sinned” (v. 4). As Thomas Watson put it, “The offence against God troubled him. He grieved more for the treason than the bloody axe.”
There is in fact no true conversion to Christ without this. According to the prophet, when God puts his Spirit in us and makes us his people, “then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations” (Ezek. 36:31). We must be “cut to the heart” with God’s truth about our sin before we will say, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
And even after we are converted, we are going to fall into sin. When that happens, we need to have that godly grief that produces repentance. While we are in this world, no one gets to the place where mourning over sin is no longer necessary. We are not yet at the Place where God will wipe away every tear. It is in heaven alone that there will be no weeping or crying.
And when we weep over our sin, we weep in hope in the mercy of God. If we stop at our sin, we are stopping at ourselves. When we are shown our sin, we need to look to Christ. Though godly grief is necessary for true repentance, it is only necessary because it helps us to see our sin in its true colors and to hate it and to see our need for a Redeemer from sin. But weeping does not purge sin. No amount of crying will take away our guilt. Only Jesus Christ can do that. The gospel does not call us to penance; it calls us to faith in Christ. As A. W. Pink put it, “True comfort is not to be found in anything in self – no, not in perceiving our own vileness – but in Christ alone.”