The Joy of Sorrow

Matthew 5:4

If you want to find a person’s character, find out what makes him laugh and what makes him weep.

In this beatitude we have a real paradox, for it speaks of the “joy of sorrow” and the “gladness of grief.” The word that is used for mourn speaks of a sorrow that pierces the heart, not just a passing sadness. This beatitude however embraces much more than mourning for the dead.

“I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin” (Psalm 38:18). The way to God is always the way of the broken heart. We must be sure that it is sin and not the consequences over which we mourn. That does not mean we must wallow in self-reproach and condemnation. There is a place for genuine mourning for our sin and sins, but let us also remember that God forgives and forgets. Leslie Weatherhead reminds us that “forgiveness is the most powerful, therapeutic idea in the whole world.”

We also need to mourn over the sin of the world, as Jeremiah wept over the sins of the people and as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. A church leader challenged his congregation with these words: “More than we need anything else today—more than money, better buildings, better choirs, social respectability—we need men and women who will tarry before God for a baptism of love. Then warmed by its fire and gripped by its passion, they will carry this love to a needy world.”

“They shall be comforted.” The word implies more than sympathy or the drying of tears. It includes comfort and consolation, summoning to one’s side as an ally or helper and encouraging and giving strength. The word comfort comes from two Latin words meaning “with strength.” Our God is the God of comfort and the Holy Spirit is referred to as the Comforter. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5).

Dr. Roy Allen translated this beatitude: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforters.” Paul wrote of “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Bramwell H. Tillsley, The War Cry

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