“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)
I was crushed under the weight of sorrow this morning. Some very dear friends received the most devastating news regarding their unborn child. I weep, and I pray through the tears, knowing that my sorrow is but a trifle compared to the immeasurable grief and sadness of these dear ones. The Bible speaks often about sorrow. Moses gives us the reason why.
“For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (Ps. 90:9-10).
There is toil and trouble aplenty in this life, and none of us can avoid it. Sorrow awaits at almost every turn. But our culture wants us to dismiss it. The motto for many today is something like this: Blessed are those who laugh their way through life.
Some of us will do almost anything to stifle our sadness and turn away from tears. We live in a culture that has made the pursuit of happiness its chief goal in life. We are pleasure-mad. We avoid problems. We run from difficulties. We despise troubles. We don’t want to deal with things that make us unhappy. Life is hard enough as it is.
Our society says, “Forget your troubles. Turn your back on them. Do everything you can not to face them. Sorrow is bad; happiness is good. Things are bad enough as they are without you going to look for trouble. So don’t mourn. Be happy.” But that’s not the way things go.
Solomon tells us, “Even in laughter the heart my ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Prov. 14:13). How true that is for some who wear a mask, never revealing their true feelings. And even their laughter is not really laughter—it’s only a pretense. What a challenge we have to be real and authentic people, as God intends for us.
I walked a mile with Pleasure;
she chatted all the way.
But left me none the wiser
for all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow,
and not a word said she.
But, oh! The things I learned
when sorrow walked with me.
Jesus declares in Matthew 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be comforted.” This startling paradox could be put this way: Happy are the unhappy or the gladness of sadness. God is much more concerned with our character than he is with our temporary conditions.
Of the different words that can be translated ‘mourn’, Jesus uses the strongest one available. It means ‘to grieve or wail’ as when a loved one dies. It is deep sorrow that causes the soul to ache and the heart to break. Jesus is not talking about complainers or moaners, but about those who are gripped by grief. As David notes, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).
God demonstrated this nearness to us most perfectly in the coming of Jesus. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isa. 53:3-4)
Our God is the “God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our afflictions…” (2 Cor. 1:3). Through the tears and sadness, let us know this God: a loving and caring Father, an empathetic Son, and a life-sustaining Spirit. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me…” (Ps. 23:4).