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. – Ecclesiastes 7:2-4
“Funerals are more instructive than parties, according to the wisest king, for a funeral will cause a man to consider his own end—the end of every man.”
-Jim Berg, Changed Into His Image, pg. 289
I have had several opportunities in my life to visit the house of mourning. Perhaps none has had such a profound effect as the death of a dear high school friend of mine. She was 41 years old at the time. Her concern was not for herself, but for her unsaved husband and her 4 children. She was ready to meet her Saviour.
I graduated from a small Christian high school in the hills of Pennsylvania. There were 17 of us in that graduating class of 1980. We have all scattered. I have lost touch with most. Two from that class died within months of each other. One suddenly of a heart-attack and my friend with cancer. My friend thought she was one of the blessed ones. She was given a glimpse into her future. Although she did not know the exact day she would die, she knew it would be soon. She was given time to “put her affairs in order.” She had the opportunity to teach her children what was really important about living and dying.
I know in her flesh she must have struggled at times with what was to be. Those of us who were able to spend any time with her never saw this. Her words were full of trust in her God. She left a letter for her husband that was full of love for him and the truths she was learning about God in this circumstance. She knew that God’s way was best. He had all the wisdom, knowledge and love. He would take care of her family after she was gone.
As she went through that trial, I thought about her and her response to her struggles and I was instructed. Recently, I heard of another friend’s passing into eternity and those lessons were reviewed in my mind. Do I spend the time I have left doing what is truly important or do I fill it up with meaningless activities? I know that God gives grace when we need it for the great trials of life, but what about now? Do I call on that same grace for the “little” trials that plague me daily? Am I teaching my children what is truly important about living and dying?
None of us know when we will leave this earth. Some of us may get notice. Many of us will not. It is my prayer that I will live each day as if it might be my last.
Some of you who are reading this article may not have made that one most important decision in life that my friend made. It is not the good deeds we do or the church that we attend that allows us into heaven. It is our decision to trust Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). He alone can grant us forgiveness of sins and give us eternal life in heaven. He is longing to do this, because of His great love for each one of us. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
Many of my friends and loved ones are now in the presence of the Lord singing in the heavenly choir. Sometimes when sitting in stillness, I can almost hear the song, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing,” (Rev. 5:12). Some day I will join their song!