The Houses of Mirth and Mourning

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day tend to be days of mirth—parties, board games, bowl games, and food, food, food. All that is on the agenda for tonight and tomorrow (even carrying over into Saturday for the Doran side of the family). This year, though, will be a little different. We have two funerals scheduled for Saturday, with visitation times scheduled for today and tomorrow. The men who died both professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, so there is hope in the midst of sadness. One of the men just recently professed faith after years of faithful witnessing by his wife, a semi-retired pastoral staff member, and many others from our church family. Every conversion is cause for rejoicing, but sometimes those long-sought ones bring a special joy.

As I was thinking this morning about the combination of events that today and tomorrow bring, I was reminded of Ecclesiastes 7:2-4, “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. 3Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. 4The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure.” These seem like strange words to a culture like ours which places so much emphasis on partying and pleasure seeking, and which virtually deifies youth and dreads the thought of getting old, let alone dying.

In some ways, though, the impact produced by the house of mourning—“because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart”—is a very profitable way to finish one year and begin the next. Contemplating the end of life is valuable if it causes us to see the relative importance (and unimportance) of so much that makes up our lives. I think this is probably why the ninth of Jonathan Edwards’ well known resolutions states, “Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.” Stepping back from the press of immediate circumstances and looking at life from the perspective of its conclusion can be both clarifying and transformative.

Today and tomorrow will be different from most years. There will be family, fun, football games, and food. But there will be funeral homes too. God has already used the prospect of both for the good of my soul. May God help you finish 2009 with a greater sense of what matters most and what God wants you to do in 2010 for His glory!

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