“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. 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 (EVS)
This is one of those passages of scripture that doesn’t seem to be a favorite. It is not usually framed and used as wall art in the home. It is not a favorite topic that is preached on often. It is, however, a passage of scripture that holds truth for those who apply it to their life.
Chapter 7 has several verses that refer to “better than” one option over another. In verse two it states that is better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting. Really? Why would anyone want to decline a dinner party for funeral visitation? Solomon, under the inspiration of the Spirit, writes the answer: Seeing how quickly life comes to an end prompts you to ponder how can I most effectively make the remainder of my life count. You have opportunity for “intentionality” to become a lifestyle rather than be governed by whatever comes up. Looking at the end allows you to make a plan for living life faithfully and fully now.
“Sorrow is better than laughter,” the next verse reads. What!! What is up with such a statement? Could this passage authored by someone emotionally stable? When the reason is given, however, it becomes understandable. Why sorrow is better is.... that in those most painful times of life, you are more open to growth, revaluation, and change. There have been times in my life that have been so painful that I would never want to repeat them, but what I carry away from them was priceless. It is in the valley, the Psalmist says, that He restores our soul.
Somehow, openness to needed changes seldom comes when on the mountaintop.
Finally, “The heart of the wise is in the House of Mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” The wise person is the one that is focused on the finish line, and intentionally makes adjustment during life’s race in order to victoriously reach it. The fool, however, indulging in pleasure trades living for the minute at the expense of eternity.
Next time you read this passage, hopefully, you will understand it is not about gloom and despair, but rather how to live life abundantly. You will continually have choices in life. Make sure you choose the “better” one.
Pastor Ruth Kaunley