Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Jereca Humphries with Introduction by David Vaughan
Hi friends. Friends online, friends in the room. It’s great to be with you today... no matter where you are turning in from, no matter what kind of week you are having, it’s good to be with you. My name is Jereca. I’m on the team here at Whitewater, if you don’t know me. Today, we get the chance to talk about Jesus and how He has moved in my life, specifically in the past year. We’ll continue in the Beatitudes, a little chapter in the book of Matthew. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
I so wish we could have this conversation on my big comfy couch, with a cup of coffee and some comfort food... because this is a story all about comfort, friends. Comfort I received when I least expected it. Comfort, when that was the last thing I thought I’d feel. The type of comfort that only comes when we have a relationship with Jesus.
Jesus. Sometimes just saying your name is all the comfort I need. I remember laying under the Christmas tree just saying your name over and over... looking for comfort. Thank you, Jesus, for providing that comfort. Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunity to share how you have moved in my life. How you have turned my mourning to dancing (most days) and how you are there for me when I don’t feel like dancing, Lord. God, I pray for those in the room and online today who SO get how I feel... for those who are mourning the loss of someone or something they loved so deeply. Lord, I pray for those with us right now who haven’t had this type of experience, but maybe they know someone, Father, who’s walking this path. Speak to all of us today, God, guide us into a deeper connection with you. Amen.
So, relax with me for a bit. Sit back, but lean in. I’m confident my story, because of Jesus, will give you some takeaways for your season of life, no matter what that season looks like - a beautiful warm, summer season or a cold, dark winter. Takeaways on a different way to live, or a different perspective or lens to look through. Ya know, that’s what we receive when we follow Jesus - this gift of a new perspective.
Let’s start with reading this short verse together, Matthew 5 if you want to turn there in your Bibles. Jon kicked us off last week with a very short sermon. It was longer than we’re used to but I couldn’t help but notice how the spirit filled the room last week and did something powerful. You could hear the tears and sniffles from the 2nd song all the way through communion. Some of you know my mom... she shared this about last Sunday’s service, “I know those of us who are ‘poor in spirit’ felt that message to our core. And it made me wanna do better... be better. Less distracted. More focused.” I love how our God is moving in powerful ways... in multiple generations... and in powerful services. I’ll try to make today’s a little shorter though!
So, today, we are in week two of our Blessed series. In a world where being ‘blessed’ means lots of different things to lots of different people, what does Jesus have to say about what it truly means to be ‘blessed'?
Today, we’ll look at verse 4, the second Beatitude: "Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.”
Let’s say it this way...you are blessed if you are mourning. Who today feels so blessed because they are mourning? Kinda seems silly, huh? Blessed certainly wasn’t the emotion I felt when I lost my husband in November.
Many of you know my family's story, you’ve seen Facebook posts and videos, and you’ve heard me mention it from this very stage. For some of my new friends with us, my husband went to Heaven in November after fighting stage 4 lung cancer for a year, well, for 11 months. 33 years young... a son, a brother, a husband of 4.5 years, an uncle, a friend, and a dad to sweet Navy Anne (just shy under 3 when he went to be with Jesus).
Rob endured chemo treatments for the last 11 months of his life... aggressive treatments with one short break, to gain back some strength to continue fighting. At the end of this journey, I sat in Mercy Health hospital on the phone with Rob’s oncologist, the specialist on his case. He told me with such grace and gentleness (that man was so comforting) that Rob had fought as hard and as long as he could. Rob wasn’t giving up, but he just wasn’t going to win this battle. We knew - even though it was the worst pain I have ever experienced - we knew Rob’s battle wasn’t lost, but quite the opposite! Rob came home for the last two days of his life on earth... wow. What a journey that was. If you’ve ever experienced working with a hospice team, you know what I’m saying. I remember walking him into the house. My dad met us at the door, and we got him comfy in his new room on the main level of our house. Surrounded by pictures of many of you in your 'fight my battles' t-shirts. We wanted Rob to know he wasn’t alone. We transformed his guitar room (many of you know he loved those guitars). In fact, Joe will be playing on Rob’s guitar here in a little bit. We spent the majority of our time together in that small room as a family. God’s provision in that week was evident. He worked out every little detail for our family. Rob spent his last day surrounded by family and friends, ate a little pizza and ice cream, and knew how so deeply loved (and missed) he would be!
Rob passed the week of Thanksgiving... definitely not what we wanted, definitely not the plan we had for our lives, and definitely not a moment I expected to receive/feel comfort. It’s a bit hard, as I’m sure you can understand, to share every detail about this chapter in our story. It helps that I’m typically an open book, but this is a really personal chapter. When I shared with those closest to me that I was going to be sharing a message from Jesus on this topic, they were a bit hesitant/worried/concerned. I get it. Do I find joy and fulfillment from sharing these details... no.... but what I do find joy and fulfillment in is Jesus. I just want to stop there. Jesus. The only name I could speak of the morning Rob moved to Heaven. Our testimony (our story) is not about Rob and Jereca and all they endured (though it was a lot), but about Jesus. Use our experience, or look back at an experience you’ve had, and let’s see how Jesus has been faithful, or how Jesus will be faithful.
Again, some of you may be on a journey of mourning with me, some of you may not be. We’re going to look at the blessings and, hopefully, if you aren’t in this season (right now), this will be helpful if and when (and I emphasize when) you are faced with a similar situation.
I’m a simple girl. I “enjoy the little things”, and I like the reminder to “celebrate the simple” (and just because something is simple, it doesn’t mean it’s easy). Today, I want us to remember this simple sentence for when we are faced with mourning, when we have lost what is most dear to us. My family, my friends, our blessing is found in the opportunity that we get to love and we get to grow.
I wouldn’t be mourning the loss of Rob if I didn’t love him. I’m mourning because I loved him. What a gift. The gift of dating Rob - I know I know... some of you feel like 'Whoa!' that is not a gift. The gift of marriage, the gift of parenting. I had the opportunity to love... what a gift.
Y’all, I love to love, and you know why? It reminds me of His love for us. 1 John 4:19 “We love because He first loved us." He created us to love.
We celebrated the life of Rob on November 29, here in this room. I had zero clue what to expect that day. It’s bizarre, and maybe some of you can relate. It felt like a holiday. It felt like a really special celebration. But... how? Why? The nerves, the excitement (weird right?), the planning, the experience I can still sense - I hear it, I feel it, I taste it. It’s almost unbearable to revisit those feelings. It overcomes my body, like a wave. Sick - I felt/feel sick thinking about it. BUT, what a blessing to experience that. To experience the love that literally FILLED this room and filled my soul. If you were there - you felt it. Right?
There was absolutely no WAY I could have stood upright without the strength of His spirit inside of me. Then, as we praised in the darkest moments, and NOW as I speak to you today His strength is a blessing. The epitome of His strength made perfect in my weakness. The epitome of 'I can’t do this - I can’t live - without you.' This ties back to what Jon mentioned last week. We are blessed when we realize our need for Him. In my mourning, I needed Jesus or it was going to be unbearable.
So, it would have been heartbreaking, absolutely heartbreaking, if the room was empty the night we honored Rob’s life on earth. Right? But it wasn’t - it was filled, safely, with people who loved Rob and with people Rob loved. WE GET TO LOVE. We mourn because we loved. What a blessing.
We also get to grow.
Before I go there, I want to warn you of a few things. In a season of mourning, you can easily get caught up in isolation and lies. If you’re with me in this, watch out for signs of isolation and be aware of lies from the enemy. I’d go as far as saying even if you ARE NOT mourning, be sure you are not isolating yourself or listening to lies from the enemy. Lysa TerKeurst, in her book “It’s Not Supposed to be This Way” said, "If the enemy can isolate you, he can influence you." If we allow ourselves to be isolated from others, especially other believers, we allow ourselves to believe the lies. The lies that can so easily creep in during our time of deep sorrow. I want to share with you some lies we can easily believe about ourselves during a season of grief.
Learn the voice of Jesus, if you haven’t yet. If you have, listen - don’t isolate yourself and don’t believe the lies. Take every thought captive. We are not fighting a physical war!
So, we get to love. What a blessing. We also get to grow.
In the book of James, Jesus’ brother, had a front row seat of watching his brother go through the unthinkable. James writes these words as a brother who mourned for his brother, Jesus:
"Consider it pure Joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
If there is anything I can encourage you to take away from our time together today, it would be this: your pain, your suffering, your mourning, your tears, your broken heart, your grief.... is not wasted. Your perseverance through these hard seasons of life will help you be more complete. If you choose so. If. You. Choose. So.
Who understands grief better than someone who has grieved? Who understands the emotions of death better than someone who has experienced it?
2 Corinthians 1:3-6
We get to grow. We can choose to grow. It’s a choice we get to make! We get to experience the maturing of our faith. Hear me, it’s not going to feel pleasant. You may not even realize it.
I’m just about three months out from the moment our worlds took a drastic change, really a year out. If you’ve ever experienced taking care of an ill family member, you know what I mean. I was not able to realize or see just how faithful God was. I didn’t feel blessed y’all when my strong husband could no longer take our daughter up to bed. I didn’t necessarily feel comfort when I sat in the car every Friday while he received treatments. I didn’t feel faithful most days. My pride was taken down a notch when I realized I was going to need strength outside of myself. Praying and asking God to provide that and he did, through you all. This body of believers came alongside my family. Gifts, meals, money, time, prayers - you all allowed me to experience Jesus on a whole new level. Thank you.
What a wake up call - to lose what’s most dear to you. Talk about a reality check. Talk about putting your faith in Christ and not in things of this world. I love the message version of this passage. Check it out: “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the one most dear to you." I lost what was most dear to me, but thank you, Jesus, for embracing me and reminding me you are my most treasured one. And through you, I will see Rob again one day.
This was a testing of my faith, you guys, a testing I didn’t ask for. Through this testing, I have developed an appreciation for Christ like never before. My relationship with Him is in a place that I’m not sure it would have gotten to without this trial. Did I want to lose my husband? OF COURSE NOT. But I’m here to say there is nothing God can’t do or turn around and there's nothing better than Him. He provides joy that makes no sense and provides comfort that is indescribable.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
I love how the Message Bible shares this verse:
“Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.”
In the midst of mourning, we are blessed with a God who says, "Come close, I’ll take your burden... I’ll give you rest. I’ll show you how to recover your life."
What experiences have you been through? What can you invite God into? Without Him, my story would look a lot different.
God’s comfort comes in many ways, and I want you to look at your life, your story, your experiences and see if there are traces of his hands at work. Because that story, of him at work in your life, will be your message. Jesus has a mission for us and our message will be a great tool on that mission.
My daughter turned 3 last month. We like to make birthdays a big deal, that Tuesday would have been no exception. We were in the car and headed to the coffee shop in town for some friends and donuts, wearing her birthday crown, of course. Beautiful, sunny, January day. She mentioned she wished Dad would be there, me, too, babe. Me, too. I remember as we were driving, my sweet girl blew my mind when she said, ‘Mom! I’m older now... I can go to Heaven.” We’ve been telling her that we’d love for her to be older, much older, when she goes to Heaven. “It’s my birthday, I’m older,” she said. I couldn’t deny that... but I said we can’t go just yet. To which she asked the most asked question a 3 year old asks ” WHY?" Uh...
I gathered my thoughts for a second. I pretended I didn’t hear her, and she asked again, “Why, mom?" I thought, "Jesus.. is this you?!" So, I had maybe one of the most important conversations with a human yet - a 3-year-old human. “Nav, we can’t go just yet because Jesus has work for us to do! Do you want to help me?" Of course, she said yes. “We get to stay here and tell people about Jesus. We get to love people and have so much fun doing so. If we love people, well, they may get to know Jesus. We want people to know Jesus, really know him, so they can go with us to see Dad in Heaven. We need to share Jesus with as many people as we can!” I was really trying to pump it up!! I said, “Doesn’t that sound good! Want to help me? This will be awesome.” Maybe trying to pump myself up! To which she said, “Okay." This big, powerful moment, and she just said “Okay." :)
Friends, I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Navy. Jesus has work for us to do. In our mourning, we have a message... a message of hope. I’m telling you, you will receive comfort like never before when you use that message to share hope. The comfort I felt, as a friend of Rob’s went all-in last week in baptism. The comfort I feel when we worship even though we’re wounded. The comfort I feel knowing that up from ashes, hope can still arise. The comfort I feel knowing this earth is not our home and that I can face another day with Him leading me. Comfort comes when we praise him and express our thanksgiving.