The Joy of Suffering

By: Steve Becker

Matthew 5:4

Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

 

Clearly the word “blessed” in this passage couldn’t mean “happy”.  That would be like saying, “Happy are they who are unhappy.”

The blessedness the beatitudes talk about is having found the greatest good; the good we all seek and for which we are made.  Blessedness is not subjective (a feeling), it is objective (a specific state of being).  It is permanent and not fleeting; it is where we reside dependant on both God’s grace and our choices.  It describes how fortunate a person is.

In his book Back to Virtue, Peter Kreeft describes mourning as being about sorrow.  Sorrow is connected to the suffering we endure in this world.  Suffering causes sorrow.  All people experience suffering and sorrow, all can be blessed in their suffering, but not all are; only Christ can bring blessing out of our sorrow.  Jesus’ joy of the crown outweighs even the pain of the cross. Who for the joy set before him endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2).

Kreeft points out that for our salvation we are all required “to die to our self-will and to grow into the pattern of Christ … to die to self-will and self-interest is to suffer.”  While there are other ways to suffer, this is a universal one for all Christians. 

An insight I found extremely helpful was this: if to suffer is to be blessed, then to suffer for others is to be doubly blessed, to suffer for love is to be triply blessed and to suffer for Christ is to be quadruply blessed.

One example he gives of suffering for Christ is obedience to his command against adultery and premarital sex.  This can seem heroic in a culture that makes fornication and infidelity seem so casual and acceptable.  Yet when I deny myself and even my imagination I am doing it not only for Christ and Christian virtue, but out of love for my wife and what we share together.

As I have done this I have grown in an ever-deepening love and appreciation of her. I am indeed quadruply blessed.  The fact that these thoughts come to me does not make me an unfaithful husband.  Picking them up and entertaining them does.

Lord, let me be able to endure the suffering and sorrow before me for the joy that lies ahead of me with you.

 

TAKE THE CHALLENGE: What self-denial or suffering have you undergone?  Think on these things and the joy they have born in your life.  What personal sacrifices are you being called to make today to die to your old self?  Let the joy that follows the mourning of your former self carry you further forward.