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Aug 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 6, 2017 – Matthew 5:4

God of Our Broken Hearts

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Intro: Where do you begin with a statement like this?

Perhaps first with the by acknowledgement, Jesus does not avoid painful subjects
– he does not side-step misery, white-wash grief with lame cliches
• some Bible teachers twist logic to argue that bad is good, bitter is sweet
◦ but grief that sucks the air out of your lungs is not “good” (cf. Mk. 14:34)
• no sane person would ask for this – and Jesus is a sane person (cf. Mk. 14:36)
◦ he had his share of wounds – he felt the sting of betrayal, rejection, and hostility
◦ he knows the difference between laughter and tears
– poverty, grief, persecution – these are all unavoidable side-effects of life

Grief is usually related to a loss – of property (e.g., theft or fire), a job, a break-up, death
– neuroscience research tells us that our brains were designed for relationship

Sue Johnson explains, “. . . losing that connection profoundly hurts. We know that the pain of rejection registers in the same part of the brain and is coded in the same way as physical pain.”

• if you love, you will at some time mourn
– if you don’t want that pain, you have very few choices

  1. Refuse to love
    – never open yourself to another person, never care for anyone, never get close to anyone–not even a pet
  2. Let yourself love, but then numb the pain when it comes
    – legal or illegal substance abuse
    – will-power, force yourself to live in denial of the pain
    • for example, some families are never allowed to talk about a dead relative
    • in some cases, all evidence of that person’s existence is immediately removed from the home

Jesus does not allow us to avoid painful subjects

Here he reminds us of the most painful moment of our lives
– when our hearts were torn out of our chests
• these are exactly the moments when some people lose God
• they cannot fight the waves and hold on to faith at same time
◦ I see myself sitting there on the mount, wondering,

“Did he take a break from healing the sick, the sufferers, the paralytics, the lepers to climb this mountain, sit down and open his mouth to teach us these hard lessons? Why does he bring up the very miseries we are trying to escape? We came to him because we heard that he can do something about the terrible things that have broken our bodies and our hearts.” I won’t say it out loud, but to myself I am saying, “I wish he would close his mouth again and get back to healing the sick.”

– but I think these thoughts because of ignorance of the fact:
• there is as much healing in his words as his touch
◦ later on in his story, it is a centurion who will first get this

“Just say the word,” he tells Jesus, “and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8:8)

◦ broken-heartedness is the most common, most universal form of suffering
• we may never know why,
◦ but there’s something healing just hearing Jesus say, Blessed are those who mourn
◦ so maybe I should not up and leave too soon; maybe I should hear him out

I’ve learned a few things through mourning

There is a depth of soul that we discover only through grief
– I would not have known my feelings went so far down if grief had not taken me there

There are lessons that sorrow alone can teach us

There is a quality of empathy we would not otherwise acquire
– without sadness of our own, we would be strangers to the emotions that rip people apart
• the school of experience is the only place you learn how others feel
– if you have traveled through this valley, you know it
• and you are naturally a guide to others who arrive here
◦ it is not something you have to try to do – you do not need words of profound wisdom
◦ your familiarity with the terrain will speak for itself
• among the most beautiful traits we see in Jesus are his empathy and compassion
◦ we read that at Lazarus’ grave side, “Jesus wept”
◦ this was not for his loss, but he was moved by the sorrow of those who grieved their loss

When Jesus first arrived in Jerusalem with his disciples, he wept over the city
– he stands, looking over the world and says to us, “Come, look, and weep with Me”
– we can hate our grief, but it is not healthy to be ashamed of it
• grief has a way of stirring up guilt – “What did I do wrong?”

Sorrow tends to make others feel uncomfortable
– people do not like hanging around sadness for too long
• Jesus stays for as long as it takes
◦ he holds us until the agony subsides
• he hangs with us to drain the guilt, and the shame, and the fear out of sorrow
◦ he purifies our experience of grief

I cannot think of any logic that justifies this statement

There is no straight path that leads from mourning to Blessed
– in fact, even his promise seems to fall short, “for they shall be comforted”
• sounds like, “Blessed are those who bang their heads against the wall, because it feels so good when they stop”
– nevertheless, Jesus is able to connect the two experiences
• so if logic does not get us from mourning to blessing, we need to find another way

It occurs to me, Jesus is doing something that he did frequently
– he came among us to reveal God’s “higher thoughts” (Isa. 55:8-9)
• but the human intellect cannot think its way to transcendent truth
◦ in fact, our intellect tends to get in the way
◦ as Paul said, the things of God’s Spirit, “foolishness” to the natural mind
– so Jesus would do was maneuver his way around the ways people normally learned
• this deserves closer inspection

Our brains constantly monitor and adjust our joints and muscles
– this is how it maintains the body’s orientation to its environment
• balance, posture, motion, and so on
– our brains do something similar for our conscious experience of the world
• it continuously observes and evaluates our surroundings,
◦ identifying objects, people, and movement
◦ eventually our minds acquire words and labels for all that we experience
• the result: the mind is able to organize this information to make sense of our world
◦ it is in our biological nature to want predictability and to have control over our circumstances
◦ no wonder, in the face of overwhelming sorrow, we cannot help but ask, “Why?”
– as helpful as these mental operations are for finding our way around in the world,
• they’re limited in helping us navigate the kingdom of heaven
• if we try to organize the realities of the transcendent, of infinity and eternity,
◦ all we manage to accomplish is to confuse and mislead ourselves

Many times Jesus said something that frustrated the rational minds of his disciples
– many times he said something literally meaningful, but odd:

Beware the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees
You must be born again
Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves

• but when people took him literally,
◦ he told them, “No, no. That’s not it. You’ve got it all wrong”
◦ that put them off balance, disrupted their patterned thinking
• to follow what he was saying, they would have to make a shift
◦ to from thinking about his words, to experiencing them
◦ from literal, rational associations to a more intuitive, perceptive response
◦ from closed categories to an openness to mystery
– as disciples progressed, they began to see world differently
• they saw it radiate a new aliveness, and in it caught flashes of beauty
• eventually, they were no longer afraid of sadness

Our challenge is to discern when we need to listen to Jesus this way
– by acknowledging our rational thoughts, but then make the shift
• to breathe, then let go of our attachments and need for control
• to surrender to God’s Spirit in the present moment
◦ regardless of where he takes us
◦ then even if we do not understand how blessing is perfectly connected to mourning, we will “feel” it

It is also helpful to ask, “Who is saying this?”

It makes all the difference who it is that makes this statement
– tell a widow who just lost her only son, “Don’t cry”
• I think she would be justified if she spit in your face
• but when it was the voice of Jesus saying these words to a widow, she stopped crying
◦ Jesus, whose voice is perfect love, perfect understanding, perfect reassurance
– Jesus not only brings up painful subjects, he reconfigures them
• he creates a new context for them by inserting himself
◦ do we grieve? He is a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”
• Jesus himself is the link between sorrow and blessing
◦ he it is both the doctor and the medicine
◦ as the cure for our sorrow, he prescribes himself

Conc: We have a word for sadness that is beyond comforting

– I had it in mind to share several comforting passages of scripture with you
• instead, I want to read to you something from Julian of Norwich
• after one of her visions of Jesus, she tells us,

“[Our] Lord said to me, ‘Thank you for working so hard and serving me with such dedication when you were young.’
These words transported me to paradise.  “At this point, God revealed to me three degrees of bliss that everyone who has ever served him in even the smallest degree on earth shall enjoy for all eternity. The first is that once we are delivered from the pain of this world, God will pour his loving gratitude on us.”

– I was bowled over by this thought
◦ that God would thank us for loving him, trusting him, walking with Jesus and being disciple
– “comfort” shares a common root with the word Jesus used for the Holy Spirit, the  “Comforter”
• the point being, this comfort is specifically related to a divine Presence
• the quality of the comfort is derived from the quality of the Person

Jesus Christ, who stands between heaven and earth,
life and death, love and loss
is our comfort
Jesus Christ is the blessing of those who mourn

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