“A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.”
I imagine many of us are thinking something like this: “Okay, yes, a good reputation is valuable. I need to make sure I keep a clear conscience.” Some of us might even get all spiritual and think: “Wow, yeah, and since we are God’s people, we need to make sure we care about God’s reputation.”
But what’s this? The day of death is better than the day of birth? Yikes!
I’ve heard people teach on Ecclesiastes almost dismissively, kind of skipping ahead to the end where it says, “Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”
Okay, what a relief, we can go on “fearing God” and doing the right thing. Good character, God’s plan for success in life.
But wait! “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.”
The Bible is dripping blood and tears, echoing with the pain of human existence—Jeremiah, Lamentations, Psalms, Job.
In Romans 12, as part of his unpacking what it means to love, the Apostle Paul tells his readers, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”
Weep. Not encourage, not minister to, not instruct. Weep…with.
For those of you already reaching for your journal or making a mental note to “remember to weep with others,” please don’t.
It’s the difference between contemplating a cloud and being struck by lightning. You weep with someone when your heart is broken too. Maybe not in the same way, maybe not to the same extent, but broken.
And in those moments, when you don’t know, when you really can’t move, when “trusting God” seems like a cruel joke, in those moments, there is a kind of insight.
There is an earthiness, an embodiedness, to suffering. In Romans 8, Paul wrote, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.”
It cries out for meaning beyond pallid spiritual platitudes, beyond success formulas based on “biblical principles.” It cries out for redemption.
God does not call us to be good or be happy or eat healthy or succeed. He calls us and our suffering to Himself.
The Bible tells the stories of prophets thrown down wells, of babies put to the sword, of Jesus bloodied, tortured, crucified—a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, our grief.
The Bible tells us we are loved.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” —Matthew 5:4