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Happiness Is A Broken Heart (2nd in Series)

Happy are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Matthew 5:4

It has been said, “Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble.” (F.R. Maltby)
In the beatitudes, Jesus says things really hard to believe, none more difficult than this: “Happiness is a broken heart.”  That is what this statement really means.  The strongest word for mourning is used.  It was used for Jacob’s grief when he thought his son Joseph had been killed by wild animals (Gen. 37:34).  When David heard his son Absalom was dead this word is used (II Samuel 19:1).
Many of those who heard these difficult words of Jesus rejected him. Others misunderstood.  The world says, “enjoy,” Jesus says, “grieve.”  Someone said, “Sorrow is the ‘key to the Kingdom of God.’”  The prophet Isaiah described Jesus as “a man of sorrows.”  So, according to Paul, suffering is the gift Jesus gives those who follow Him (Philippians, 1:29).
Tough words but more is to come.  Bonhoeffer wrote, “With each beatitude the gulf is widened between the disciples and the people.”
There are three causes for mourning.  First, there is the sorrow that comes from the tragedies of circumstances.  Robert Shuller tells this story:

Andre Thornton with his wife and two children were driving to Pennsylvania for her wedding.  As they travel through the mountains, it is raining and snowing.  A strong wind caught the van.  It spun, turned over and hit a guardrail.  He woke up in a hospital and a sobbing nurse told him that his wife and little girl were dead.  He said, “It was a gut-wrenching time.  I felt as though the insides of my body were being torn out.”  But Thornton found what others have found—strength.  He said, “But even at that moment we can count on the Lord’s Word.  The Lord said in His Word, ‘I will never fail you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

The story of John Wesley’s transforming experience at Aldersgate is a huge part of Methodist history.  Prior to it he writes of much heaviness, describes himself as “sick of soul and spirit.”  His biographer, Robert Telford chronicles the events:

May 24, 1738—“At five that morning he opened his Testament on the words, ‘There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises.’  In the afternoon someone asked him to go to St. Paul’s.  The anthem was, “out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord….O Israel, trust in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption.  And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins.”
That evening he went very unwillingly to a Society in Aldersgate Street where someone was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans.  “About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed.  I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”  He was much tempted when he returned home, but when he prayed the temptations fled.  He soon found how different they were from his former struggles.  Then he was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now he was always conqueror.”

This describes being broken-hearted for our sin and unworthiness.
The first word of Jesus’ first recorded message is “repent.”  William Barclay said, “We have not begun on the Christian way until we take sin with such seriousness that our sorrow is like the mourning of one who mourns for the dead.”  This does not, however, mean “morose,” “miserable,” “sullen.”  As Billy Graham wrote, “Some people’s religion is like the man with a headache—he can’t afford to give up his head, but it hurts him to keep it.”
The comfort here is forgiveness and peace.
The third cause is illustrated from the life of St. Augustine.  He credits his conversion to Monica, “Thy faithful one, weeping, to thee for me, more than mothers weep the bodily deaths of their children….her tears streaming down, they watered the ground” (Confessions, 42).
Lord Shaftsbury, the great social reformer, as a boy, met a pauper’s funeral.  The coffin was shoddy, ill-made box, on a hand barrow.  It was carried by four drunken men, singing ribald songs, joking, laughing.  The coffin fell off and burst open.  The laughed at a good “joke” and turned away in disgust.  He said, “When I grow up, I’m going to give my life to see things like that don’t happen” (Barclay, 94).
This was called, by old-timers, “carrying a burden.”  It is to voluntarily share a neighbor’s pain, visit the sick, sorrowing, those in nursing homes and jails.  It was Art Linkletter who said, “Every person’s life touches some other life that needs love today.”  And it was Abraham Lincoln who stated, “I am sorry for the man who can’t feel the whip when it is laid on the other man’s back.”  John Knox, the great preacher, prayed, “Give me Scotland or I die.”
Comfort here comes from knowing that God is working His plan.
There it is—Happiness is a broken heart.  It is not a promise of relief but the comfort of strength, forgiveness and hope.

[God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…. (Revelation 21:4)

“O the bliss of the one whose heart is broken for the world’s suffering and for his own sin, for out of his own sorrow he will find the joy of God! (William Barclay’s translation of Matthew 5:4)  Read all 8.

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