Lesson From the House of Mourning

Our  culture consumes death like candy bars-video games, violent television series and gory movies.  Halloween is one of the biggest “holidays” celebrated in America.

We are desensitized to news stories of destruction and devastation because we’ve “seen” it all.

Yet we are a society that shuns mourning.

We can’t stand to hear the keening wail of mothers following the linen clad bodies of their fallen children.

We segregate funerals to special buildings that look like low-slung country clubs complete with ornate light fixtures, clean bathrooms and temperature controlled environments.  In many places we no longer bury our dead next to a church where the living and the gone before mingle, waiting the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

All this so we can ignore the lesson of Solomon.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:2 HCSB

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I was only three but I remember my great-grandaddy laid out in the living room.

My parents didn’t hide me away in some corner and allow me to grow up pretending death didn’t exist.  They didn’t shield me from visiting my ailing relatives or from standing by the gravesides of my ancestors.

I brought my children to funerals from an early age.

There’s no use pretending that people’s bodies don’t die.  Sooner or later it catches up to you.

But while our bodies don’t last forever, our spirits do.  We are eternal beings, you and me.

It’s not a question of IF we will live forever, but WHERE.

And that was Solomon’s point:  decide while you still can who and what has your heart.

Because that choice determines where you spend eternity.

There is only one way to the Father’s House-through Jesus.

In the long run the answer to all those who object to the doctrine of hell, is itself a question: What are you asking God to do? To wipe out their past sins and, at all costs, to give them a fresh start, smoothing every difficulty and offering every miraculous help? But He has done so, on Calvary. To forgive them? They will not be forgiven. To leave them alone? Alas, I am afraid that is what He does.

C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain

Do you know Jesus?

He KNOWS you.  He LOVES you. And He died for YOU.

He rose to conquer death for you.

He has made a Way where there was no way.

No one gets out of here alive…choose this day whom you will serve.

It makes an eternal difference.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of alland richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13 NIV

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The Power of Presence

For fifty years I was on the “other side”-the one where I looked on, sad and sometimes horror-stricken, at the pain and sorrow friends or family had to bear.

I wanted to help.

I wanted to say the “right thing”.  I wanted to express how very much my heart hurt for them and that I badly wished I could carry some of their load.

Sometimes I think I did a pretty good job of reaching out and touching the wound and offering a little bit of comfort.  But other times, I would say nothing because I didn’t know what to say.

Now I am the one bent under the burden of grief-my heart and body and soul laboring to carry the weight of burying a child.  And there are those who are brave and reach out to me and offer words or hugs or prayers and their efforts give me strength and comfort.

Walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, these gestures are lights in the darkness, hope for my heavy heart and encouragement for a weary body.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

It’s tempting to avoid someone when their world is dark.

It’s uncomfortable to choose to enter their pain.  But Jesus has called us to walk beside the suffering, to encourage the disheartened and to lift up the ones who stumble.

There are no magic words to erase heartache.

Only presence.

And isn’t that why Jesus came?

We are most like our Savior when we are willing to leave our place of comfort and venture into the threatening world of another’s pain and suffering.

“Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross”

(Philippians 2:5-8)