Happy Are the Unhappy

John Lennon, a founding member of the Beatles, once famously said: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Although Lennon never professed to be a Christ-follower, his statement reflects the kind of hope only a believer in Jesus could have—beyond sentiment.

Honestly, doesn’t it feel like “it’s not okay” most of the time? It can seem like the times we feel everything is alright are euphoric but fleeting moments. While we want to tune the eyes of our hearts to see the good in life, we also are aware of the things that cause grief and sorrow. But Jesus did not see our pain as something oppositional to a blessed life.

“Wonderful news for the mourners! You’re going to be comforted.” (N.T. Wright’s translation of Matthew 5:4)

Wonderful news? It might come across as sarcastic to some of us! Often we think “too bad for those who are mourning.” At times we buy into the belief that the Christian life makes no room for sadness, mourning, or lament. And so we numb our lows, pretending like everything is okay. We pressure ourselves to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, or worse yet, bury our emotions altogether. But Jesus is inviting us to see goodness in the midst of our grief.

“Happy are the unhappy” is the irony of Matthew 5:4, which instead of being an oxymoron, it’s a powerful realization of the promised reversal of our sorrows.

Where do we see a reversal of our sorrows? In the end. The Bible begins in Genesis (in the beginning) and concludes with Revelation, which is a telling of how the story all ends. And spoiler alert—the ending is good, satisfying, and worth the wait! Consider one of the climactic verses in the last book of the Bible:

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:4 (NLT)

God does not ignore our sadness, He reverses it! Think about it like this: sorrow will not make the cut of what makes it into God’s new (and permanent) creation. We need that reminder because we are, in fact, in the middle. Grief and sadness are still part of our reality. We must recognize that they are here, now, but won’t be here forever. Could this be part of the “wonderful news” Jesus spoke about in Matthew 5:4?

So what do we do in the meantime, with all this sorrow we face? The heart of what we are saying is not to suggest that there is no comfort here and now.

We worship the God who the Apostle Paul calls the “Father and source of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT).

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7, NLT)

Nine times in those 4 verses, Paul uses a form of the word “comfort” is used. God clearly is interested in bringing comfort to us, even now, with a permanent plan to rid sorrow from existence at the end of history—which of course is just the new beginning!

Sorrow reminds us that we are in the middle of the story—not the end.

God Himself will “wipe every tear” from our eyes (Revelation 21:4, again). How encouraging is it to know that God doesn’t tell us to suck it up or wipe our own tears. He will wipe them. There is something so comforting about a loved one sitting with us in our grief, wiping our tears and saying: “It’s okay. I am here for you. It’s all over now. Everything is alright.”

So important is this theme in biblical eschatology (the Bible’s end-goal storyline) that Isaiah’s prophecy has quite a few verses devoted to talking about the future cessation of sorrow: Isaiah 25:8; 35:10; 51:11; 60:20; 65:19.

  • He will swallow up death forever! The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears. He will remove forever all insults and mockery against his land and people. The Lord has spoken! (Isaiah 25:8, NLT)
  • Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 35:10, NLT)
  • Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 51:11, NLT) *This isn’t a typo, these verses are worded the exact same despite being in different chapters of Isaiah.
  • Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down. For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end. (Isaiah 60:20, NLT)
  • I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more. (Isaiah 65:19, NLT)

Consider writing these verses somewhere where you can see them. Put them on the same page and read them every day for a month. It’s encouraging to see constant affirmations of these poetic and powerful truths!

Bonus: We have written on how Easter speaks to the problem of suffering HERE & how suffering break’s God’s heart HERE.

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