Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Out of care for God’s world, mourn for the suffering of others and you will find comfort for your suffering.
I’ve been meditating on sorrow today; thinking about my sorrows and the painful situations which precipitated them. This is a universal condition. In trying to understand how sorrow could be a good thing, I tried to get a better understanding of the fuller meanings of the word.
Google defines sorrow as:
a feeling of deep distress caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself or others.
That did not bring me any closer to understanding the goodness of sorrow. How could deep distress be a welcome step on a spiritual journey? Of course, we can grow through our pain, but I don’t think that is all Jesus had in mind in this sermon.
I looked to the origins of the word sorrow on Etymology Online. It points to an Old English word sorg, which means the same as Google’s definition. It relates to the Lithuanian and Old Slavonic words for sickness. It brings to mind the phrases I am just sick over it, of I am sick with grief over this.
But then I found something very enlightening. On the site www.hebrew4christians.com, there is a Hebrew lesson on the Beatitudes. It refers to the second beatitude as The Blessing of the Heartache. It uses the term “godly sorrow”. This is something I can hang my hat on.
We all know human sorrow. We’ve all experienced sorrow at the loss of a person who is dear to us, the pain of a broken heart, or any number of human causes for pain. These are sorrows that are born in our hurt and brokenness. But what sorrow does God experience? Can God be hurt? Can God be broken? I do not know. But I want to suggest that God feels sorrow for us. When we are hurting, God weeps with us. When we make choices that hurt ourselves or others, God feels sorrow for us. He does not wish us to suffer. This is Godly sorrow.
When we have emptied ourselves in order to make ourselves poor in spirit, humble, it clears the way for us to see ourselves and others the way God does. We see that we are all children of God who suffer. We become filled with Godly compassion and we may weep in the way that our God weeps, not out of our own pain, but out of love for the world. We gain compassion for ourselves. We can acknowledge our and others’ struggles without the selfishness and worry that once distorted our vision.
And we will be comforted. God is with us in mourning the suffering of the world. The Greek word here for comforting literally translates to “to call along side.” We will be “called along side with God for encouragement and strength” (hebrew4christians.com)
Brian received a text one day from his teenage son that he had made several attempts on his own life. He immediately picked his son up from school and brought him to the ER to be evaluated for hospitalization. On the way, his son described the circumstances of his suicide attempts, each one getting closer to success. Determined to attend to the task at hand, Brian shoved the images out of his mind.
After his son was safe in the hands of mental healthcare professionals, Brian and his wife drove home late in the night. As his wife slept in bed, he went to his son’s room to look for a note. He found it on the desk. It expressed an anguish which he did not know his son was experiencing. It expressed the meaningless of his small life in the vastness of a cold Universe. Despite having raised him in the church, his son did not believe in God which, it seemed to Brian, made it all the easier to end his life.
Brian went to bed hoping for sleep. But he was now suffering with images of his son’s as he may have struggled, as it may have ended. He was angry that this had happened to himself. He was plagued by the “what if’s”. He tortured himself with desperate ponderings of how he could have raised his son differently. His pain and guilt were all he could see.
But then a quiet came over him. He imagined how very lonely the experience must have been for his son in those dark moments. His heart filled with compassion for him and the many months of suffering he must have endured, and in that moment his pain and guilt and anger were transformed into sorrow. He stopped thinking of his own suffering and started thinking of his son’s suffering, and for the first time, he wept.
As he laid awake, he sought God in prayer, and God said, “Life is pain. And I am Love.” And Brian was comforted. God’s sorrow was expressed to him in the form of love. God had given Brian a choice, not a choice to stop feeling pain, but to feel that he had been “called along side with God.” And Brian found that he loved his son more than ever from that moment on.
Holy sorrow. Sorrow which transforms pain, guilt, and suffering into Love.
- In my moments of great distress or in witnessing the distress of others, what has kept me from feeling godly sorrow? Guilt? Resentment? Anger? Pain? Judgment?
- Which of those can I entrust to the care of God?
Comforting God, in my suffering and in the suffering around me, bring me along side of you to share in your sorrow and to receive your comfort. Amen.