“Blessed are those who mourn,” said Jesus.
This is one of the strangest statements in
the Bible. It is a paradox and a mystery. Happy
are the sad! What do these strange words
mean? Who are the mourners, why are they
sad, and how are they comforted?
I. The mystery of human suffering
No matter how long we ponder this idea,
the questions we may ask cannot easily be answered
because “the secret things belong to the
Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29). God has His reasons,
but He’s not obligated to share them with
us. The “secret things” describe the deep purposes
of God that we simply are not capable of
understanding. What sort of explanation would
suffice to explain to us why one person lives
while another dies?
II. The ministry of divine comfort
But to leave the matter there would not be fair, for the Bible has a great deal to say about the ministry of divine comfort.
A. God Himself draws near to those who hurt. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Here is a promise of God’s special presence in the midst of our pain. Through the Holy Spirit, the Lord Himself draws near to us in times of great suffering. We sense His presence in a way that goes beyond the natural. We hear His voice even though there is no sound in the room. Many Christians can testify to feeling this special sense of God’s nearness during times of great suffering.
B. God uses suffering to draw us to Himself. In the same psalm, David declared, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (verse 4). Suffering turns us to the Lord as nothing else can. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say, “You never know if Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. And when Jesus is all you have, then—and only then—will you discover that Jesus really is all you need.”
C. We grow faster in hard times than in
good times. Romans 5:2-5 describes the process
God uses to develop godly character in our
lives. In fact, Paul says, “We also rejoice in our
sufferings” (verse 3). That may look like a misprint,
but it isn’t. Paul isn’t suggesting that we
should become masochists who rejoice in hard
times as if we enjoyed the pain. That wouldn’t even be a Christian idea. He doesn’t say, “We
rejoice because of our sufferings” but rather
“we rejoice in our sufferings.”
Even in the most difficult moments, God’s people can rejoice because He is at work doing something important in them. Verses 3-5 explain the process. What starts with suffering ends with the love of God. This is a wonderful progression, but you cannot get to the love of God without starting in the place of suffering.
D. Our sufferings qualify us to minister to
others. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, we read that God
“comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can
comfort those in any trouble with the comfort
we ourselves have received from God.” The
Greek word translated “comfort” in this verse
is the same word Jesus used in Matthew 5:4.
God uses our sufferings to comfort us so that
we can minister to others in His name.
No one understands cancer like someone
who has been through it. No one understands
divorce like a person who’s experienced it. No
one understands the pain of a miscarriage like
a mother who has lost a child that way. No one
knows the pain of losing a job like someone
who has been told, “You’re fired.”
Many Christians are superbly qualified to
minister to others, but they don’t realize it. They
are the ones who have been deeply hurt by the
troubles of life, and through it all, they have discovered
that God is faithful. Those people have
an important message to share. They can say
with conviction, “God will take care of you. I
know, because He took care of me.”
III. The majesty of God’s sovereignty
What do these things teach us about the
character of God?
A. Because God is sovereign and we are not, most of our questions will never be answered in this life. Some people can’t live with that truth, so they devise human answers to explain suffering and death. Those answers almost never work, and sometimes they hurt more than they help. When I am called to the hospital, I never try to answer these hard questions. They are beyond me. Better to say less and be silent before the Lord than to try to explain the mysterious ways of God.
B. Because God is good, we know that He has our best interests at heart. That sentence gets to the heart of Romans 8:28. I am convinced that the goodness of God is the central issue of life. If you believe God is good, you can endure things that would break most people. As long as you believe in the goodness of God, you can live with unanswered questions. But once you doubt His goodness, you must become either a secret atheist or an angry Christian.
God’s goodness doesn’t depend on our happiness.
C. Because God is wise, nothing in our experience is ever wasted. God’s purpose for His children is reached through suffering, but nothing is wasted. Romans 8:29 tells us that God has predestined us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Ellen G. White explains this concept as follows: “Though the moral image of God was almost obliterated by the sin of Adam, through the merits and power of Jesus it may be renewed. Man may stand with the moral image of God in his character for Jesus will give it to him . . .”1 If you feel the heavy weight of God hammering down on you, rest assured that nothing is being wasted. He is shaping you into “the image of His Son.”
D. Because God is love, He will not leave
you alone in your pain. This is the promise of
the second Beatitude: “Blessed are those who
mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
God will come to you. You may not feel it or
believe it, but it is true—He has promised it! If
necessary, I could produce a long line of witnesses
who could testify to God’s comfort in
the midst of great suffering.
After Calvary, God had nothing to prove to
anyone. How can you doubt His love after you
have looked at the bleeding form of Jesus hanging
on the cross?
I realize that this may not answer every
question, but it does answer the most important
question: Does God care for me in the midst of
my suffering? The answer is Yes. God cares for
you, and if you doubt His love, fix your gaze on
the Cross and be comforted.
Ellen G. White’s comments on Romans 8:29, in
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary,
6:1078, quoted in The Review and Herald, June