In the House of Mourning


Solomon once wrote:

"It is better to go to a house of mourning
Than to go to a house of feasting,
Because that is the end of every man, And the living takes it to heart.
S
orrow is better than laughter,For when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 
The [d]mind of the wise is in the house of mourning,
While the [e]mind of fools is in the house of pleasure." (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4)


This past weekend, our family of three traveled ten hours to east Ohio for the funeral of one of Amber's family (we'll call her T) who died after a tough fight with cancer. She was married to J and left four children, the youngest of which is just three - born just a couple weeks after our daughter, Anna, thus rending our hearts a bit more than usual. 

Could it really be that it's better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting? Was this just the melancholic rant of a jaded cynic? Wouldn't it be better for us to just avoid the house of mourning and remain in the house of pleasure? Or, was Solomon on to something? Was he able to see, as CS Lewis says, "along the beam" of suffering and death, rather than merely staring straight into the beam and being so blinded to miss the point?

Death is the end of all mankind. If we only remain in the house of pleasure, we deny that which lays before us. There is no other door for us to walk through. Our bodies will each decay and perish. If that is so, where is hope? What is this life for? What am I living for? Is there life beyond the grave?

The house of mourning affords the opportunity to stop and reflect on these ultimate questions. In our pleasure-seeking, entertainment-driven, distraction-oriented culture, the house of mourning demands of us to stop, be still and listen. 

While sitting in the pew among a crowd of observers while the piano played beautiful melodies, listening to the pastor share intimate insights from T's final moments, standing in the cemetery among the gravestones while the cool autumn winds blew. I had the chance to reflect. Everyone who came to the funeral had this opportunity - a rare opportunity to learn from T's suffering and death. It was not wasted

In a final journal entry she pointed to her hope found in 1 Peter 1:3-6 - "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
These words were originally penned to a community of saints who were suffering some of the greatest persecution ever to befall Christians. If anyone ever knew the physical pains and sufferings associated with physical death, it was this group. Peter pointed them to the profound and unheralded hope which we, as believers in Jesus Christ, have because of his resurrection.

Resurrection: a word redefined, magnified, rightly positioned and personified by none other than Jesus of Nazareth. 

In one of the intimate portraits that the pastor painted, he shared an exchange between J & T. As T fought against the raging effects of cancer on her body, J told her he was praying for a miracle from the Lord. But, he said, the good news is that Jesus has already provided that miracle - through his resurrection! T was in a "win-win" situation, he said; either she pulls through or she dies in the living hope of the resurrection.

There is more to life than meets the eye. Just as a window in a mountain cabin exists to provide a view to a greater vista beyond, so can death provide us with a view into deeper realities which lie beyond. Whether we are given 30, 40, 50 or 100 years on this earth, we are just a "mere mist", James writes. But death doesn't have the final word. Through Jesus Christ, we can say "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15).

Yes, "all creation groans" still (Romans 8 - one of the most potent chapters in the Bible!). I groan as I look at this precious three year old girl and my heart groans for her. She won't have mommy there with her as she learns to ride a bike and starts school and learns how to talk to boys and begins to walk her own journey of faith and wrestles with life's big questions. It stings now, but the sting is not permanent. There is a living hope and permanent inheritance for all who now worship Jesus Christ. He will return and rightfully claim his authority over the entire cosmos; he will permanently eradicate the dissenters and ills which stand in opposition to his majestic kingdom of grace and justice and his people will bask in the light of his loving presence and reign with him in his new creation. 

The "sun will rise" for those whose life is hidden with Christ. This song comes to mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtOfQZxKM1U

And, that is why it is better to go to the house of mourning.



1 comment:

Barb said...

Very well said/written with Holy Spirit's guidance