King Solomon, by his great wisdom in discerning the true condition of man, wrote that “it is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting” because of the life lessons that may be learned there. He goes on to say that “the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth,” and then he ends this short meditation in Ecclesiastes 7:1-6 by classifying as vanity (or emptiness) the “laughter of the fool.”
The Lord Jesus, in what are commonly called the “Beatitudes”, pronounced them blessed “that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The Lord in other places spoke of the joy that ought to be the believer’s portion, and so does the apostle Paul,¹ but there is no contradiction here. The mourning of the disciples would be extreme when they saw Jesus crucified and buried, but the weeping and lamenting would turn to irrepressible joy upon His resurrection (John 16:20-22). Normal Christian experience calls for both mourning and joy in their seasons, and I believe we can go so far as to say that these godly sentiments may be experienced almost simultaneously by the believer. An old hymn puts it this way: “With joy and sorrow mingling, we would remember Thee”.
There is a danger in not mourning when that is called for, when that is the only appropriate response to a matter, according to God. The Corinthians were rebuked for not mourning over the sin that was going on among them in plain view of the world, which brought shame to the name of Christ and stood to defile the assembly if not addressed in a timely and godly manner.²
What are some causes for mourning in our world today? Permit me to list a few here. It is fitting for the saint who trembles at the Word of God³ to mourn:
- For all of our personal failures and sin against a holy God (James 4:1-10);
- For all the dishonor done to the Lord by ourselves and our countrymen (Zechariah 12:10-14);
- For our failure in maintaining holiness and love in the church of God (II Corinthians 7:6-11);
- For the rampant slaughter of innocents throughout the world, born and unborn (Matthew 2:18);
- For the lack of truth, mercy, and the knowledge of God (Hosea 4:1-3);
- Because ungodly, unrepentant men and women are dying and going to hell for their sins (Ezekiel 31:13-18).
This is merely a partial list with a few references, but I trust it presses upon each Christian the need for mourning while we are in this “present evil world”. Satan uses the things of this world to entertain and distract believers, seeking to lull us into complacency with respect to the sin and death that the Lord Jesus Himself mourned over while in the days of His flesh (Luke 19:41-46; John 11:35). But for the saint who seeks to walk as Jesus walked through this world, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
Only when all the enemies of Christ are subdued, and that “last enemy”, death, is forever destroyed, will the need for mourning in this world, in accordance with God’s thoughts, be gone (I Corinthians 15:24-28). Do not despise or neglect the privilege of mourning now as a Christian, in fellowship with your Savior.
¹ Philippians 3:1 and 4:4 ² I Corinthians 5 ³ Isaiah 66:2