Mornings are prime real estate in my world of time and productiveness. I am of the utmost utility at dawn, and I am waxed strong and motivated prior to the sun’s ascendance.
However, there are two consequences of being a morning person:
- I am utterly useless in the evening.
- Perplexing and challenging Biblical truths are more difficult to parse.
Four o’clock in the morning is not an ideal time to think about the concept of mourning over sin and of the wretchedness of the human condition.
Grappling with mourning in the morning
Amidst my morning routine one fine day, I was reading the letter of James, chapter 4, as part of a Bible study in which I was involved. For quick context, James 4 is a chapter on worldliness and pride; it is a challenge for the believer to consider their double-mindedness—having one foot in the world, or in sin, and another foot daintily treading on God’s word and wisdom. Pride is the source of strife. C.S. Lewis sees it as of the “utmost evil” and the primary cause of misery around the world. James rhetorically asks us from where does our struggle and fighting with our brothers come.
“From whence comes wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1 KJV)
James then exhorts us on how to fight pride and worldliness: James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” Cool, can do.
“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Through God’s power, can do.
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” I like the sound of that.
“Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.” I am indeed a sinner and of a double mind. I will prayerfully do that.
Then I came across this instruction from James 4:9 (ESV):
Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Why the wretchedness, the mourning, and the gloom?
I asked myself: why should I mourn over sin? Why not be overjoyed that God has redeemed me from my sinful nature? I am a sinner and of a double mind, but God has conquered it all, so why mourn and wallow and weep over sin? What good does it do?
My reaction to this had always been thus: Why not be exuberant that God loves us, and that He chose us and redeemed us despite our sinful nature? We can acknowledge or sinful nature, yes, but let us draw more attention to God’s saving power—to His grace.
Getting into a mourning routine
Matthew 5:4 came to my attention, where Jesus, during his Sermon on the Mount, says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” It is a heartening promise for God, that being if we find ourselves in a mournful state, God is there to comfort us. Yet this goes beyond the deep and wailing sorrow we experience when a loved one passes away. It applies to how we come to terms with our human nature, too.
Commentary in my King James Bible says this: “Those who mourn over sin will be comforted in confession.” This small insight put the pieces all together for me in how we ought to be mournful and sorrowful over our sinful nature. When we comprehend the significance of our wrongdoing—when guilt weighs heavy on our hearts—forgiveness is so much sweeter.
How does it feel when the person to whom you have committed a serious transgression has forgiven you? The forgiveness is sweet, and the burden of the guilt evaporates immediately!
Conversely, being apathetic about our sin and then being forgiven of it resonates weakly—if at all—within us. If I did not care in the first place that I hurt you, why would I care to be forgiven?
We have transgressed and will transgress again against God, the only source of true love and goodness. If I cannot recognize the impact of my sin against God, how can I have a true appreciation that He loves and forgives us?
We mourn over our sin because we know how much deeper, stronger, and brighter God’s grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness all are. That is the power and the reason behind mourning over sin. It is why we ought to be wretched and to be wailing over sin.
This quote from Thomas Watson, a Puritan preacher from long ago, sums it up nicely:
“Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”
Exuberance that God loves us and has forgiven us abounds stronger when we can mourn over our sin and wretchedness.