“How blessed are those who understand the sorrow of this world, for God himself will comfort and encourage them” (Matt. 5:4)
The second Beatitude deals with the ever too present sorrow that is always lurking in the shadows of life. “Blessed are those who mourn” is the standard translation followed by “for they will be comforted.” “Those who mourn” are normally understood to be those who are going through difficult times, and that is understandable. But, as the designation is used here by Jesus, it describes those who understand that all the suffering in the world stems from the sinful and self-destructive human tendency to act as though God did not exist. In Jesus, In His Own Words I describe them as “those who understand the sorrow of this world.” Phillips has “those who know what sorrow means.” It is less that they are experiencing sorrow than it is that they understand how it came to be, If one does not understand the source of all sorrow and grief there exists for that person no clear perspective on why life has its downside. If you assume that the lack of sorrow is the normal state of things you will never be able to deal with it in any definitive way. The Christian believer understands that, given the curse of sin, sorrow is a standard ingredient in life. What should (and will) be is the absence of sorrow, but that awaits the triumphant return of Christ and the end of the human experience.
Way back at the beginning the primal pair failed the crucial test and were put out of the garden. But that was not all. To Adam, God declared, “Cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen. 3:17). With sin came a sorrow that extended from separation from God all the way to the cursing of the earth. Paul writes that “the creation was subjected to frustration” and that it will be “liberated from its bondage to decay” at the future moment God’s glory will be finally and completely displayed (Rom. 8:18-21).
So Jesus reminds us that it is those who “understand the sorrow of this world” that are blessed. We alone know God’s broad plans for sin’s ultimate destruction and removal. God himself “comforts and encourages” those who know that what currently is, along with all its sorrow, will be done away with and God will rule both heaven and earth with perfect justice. And that is why those who understand are, even in the difficulties of life, blessed.”
The short-range view cannot understand the why of sorrow. This, in turn, prevents an optimistic view of the future. There is no certainty that all will be well. In fact, how does one know that everything will not get progressively worse so that in time the forces of evil will prevail? Followers of Jesus understand not only the nature and the cause of sorrow, but its ultimate demise as well. Blessed are those who understand sorrow!