2It 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. 3Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 4The 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 ESV)
Every person ever born will someday die. Many people ignore this truth, not wanting to have to think about such a reality or what lies beyond this life. But regardless, death is the end of all mankind. Therefore, it pays to think about death as King Solomon advocates in this passage.
To that end, it is better to think about the sad and tragic things that happen on this earth than to have a good time. Notice the Bible does not say that we are never to enjoy ourselves. Jesus had dinner with friends and attended a wedding [Matthew 9:10; John 2:1-5].
Celebrating birthdays and holidays and general socializing are good things. But they focus on future dreams. Somber occasions focus on realities.
Tragedies, be they a natural disaster, terrorist attack, or a death of a loved one, demonstrate the frailty of life. Such serious events are occasion for edifying thoughts and reflections. The wise will take them to heart.
None of us enjoy being sad. And God does not want us to be sad. He wants our hearts to be glad. But ironically, the only way that can happen is if we experience sorrow. Experiencing laughter may be good at times, but overall it isn’t as good as experiencing sadness. This is a great paradox.
Life’s difficulties have the potential to bring us to God. Sorrow makes us think about life, its meaning, and our priorities. Partying does not. Constantly pursuing pleasure leads one away from God, leading to a heart that is anything but glad.
Wise people realize this and therefore embrace the sad events of life as learning experiences. Life becomes their teacher. Most pastors will tell you they’d rather preside over a funeral than a wedding for this reason. Funerals motivate people to think about eternity. Weddings do not.
Fools, on the other hand, go through life seeking nothing but pleasure and avoiding pain. They don’t stop to ponder death and eternity. All they care about is having a good time here and now [Luke 12:16-20]. As a result they will experience the worst tragedy one can experience – eternal separation from God (aka hell).
One of the biggest arguments people have against Christianity is God’s call for us to experience suffering. Admittedly, this goes against human nature; none of us want to experience pain. I had this same objection. But when we think it through we see that suffering has a positive spiritual benefit that pleasure can never lead us to.
Suffering, if embraced, reveals the reality of our own mortality. It leads to realism. It leads us to God. Which creates a better life. As Jesus told us, it is a blessing to mourn [Matthew 5:4].
Before life can truly be better, we must first allow it to become bitter.
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