A Bitter Better

For the second time in less than a week I will go to a house of mourning tomorrow. I will officiate at the funeral of a brother in Christ and member of my church for the last several years. We have shared a lot in common the last eighteen months as cancer victims experiencing the various forms of treatment and the war stories that result.

That’s another blog post. This post concerns my fortune to attend two funerals in so short a span of time. I say fortune because of the wise words of King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7:2-4.

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.

It may well be a bitter better but better it is just the same to attend a memorial service than a wedding celebration or a birthday party. Why is that? Because funerals, uncomfortable as they are to our live-for-the-moment, eat-drink-and-be-merry culture, focus our attention on the one great universal inevitability. This is the end of all mankind. Everyone has the same appointment. No one escapes his destiny with the valley of the shadow, the last enemy, death. Furthermore houses of mourning point us to the brevity of life, the mist-like nature of our existence that is here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14).

Unlike parties, houses of mirth, that play to levity and the thrill of the moment, funerals focus you on the inevitability of the ultimate and the gravity of the life to come. They can teach us to pray as Moses did in Psalm 90:12 – teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

A heart of wisdom lets the sadness of mortality and the certainty of death lead one to the joy of immortality through the hope of the gospel that the One who both frequented wedding celebrations (John 2) and visited cemeteries (John 11) triumphed over death and will raise from the grave all who belong to Him by faith.

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