Christianity 201

November 30, 2013

A Time for Sadness

Today, I want to look at three places in scripture where sorrow is prized over joy, the third of which will lead to a fuller devotional reading.  The first one is:

Ecclesiastes 7:2

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.
The writer of Ecclesiastes is offering some advice that is hard to take, but life is not all about laughter and hilarity. Elsewhere, he wrote that there is
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
Eugene Peterson renders Ecc 7:2 as
You learn more at a funeral than at a feast—
After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover
    something from it.
The second instance of this is really the entire book of Lamentations, not to mention the various laments we find in Psalms.  There’s also this example in the book of Joel:
Joel 1:13 Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn; wail, you who minister before the altar. Come, spend the night in sackcloth, you who minister before my God; for the grain offerings and drink offerings are withheld from the house of your God.
which I discovered in a search that revealed the number of times a direction to lament is given in the subheadings of the Psalms or the chapter subheadings particular translators have added to supplement the text. In various places, many writers today are noting that we lack a theology of lament, and that our worship times tend to avoid the minor keys insofar as we want our weekend services to be positive and upbeat.
The third instance is today’s study from the book of James, sourced at the blog reVer(sing) Verses.  I encourage you to read this at source.

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  James 4:9


In James 4 James speak about the need for Christians to submit to God instead of conforming to the evil ways of the world and falling into the traps of the devil. Have you ever been in a scenario when somebody has done something bad, and yet instead of being in remorse, he stands by idly and laughs? That’s what we’re doing when we fail to resist the devil and when we fail to submit ourselves to God [James 4:7|Article]. Did you have a good time when you were out with your friends on a girl’s night yesterday? Did you enjoy yourself with your family and drink and laugh and make merriment? How could you still laugh, when you have done bad in God’s eyes by failing to submit to God and allowing the Satan a foothold in your life? How could you? Essentially, this was perhaps what James was telling us when he demanded the people to grieve, mourn and wail. Ultimately, we are entitled to rejoice in the Lord – surely God wants us to be happy! But we need to turn back to the Lord. We need to submit to God. In today’s study we will examine why we should change our laughter to mourning and what it really means.


Grieve, mourn and wail – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a researcher on emotions or a psychologist to understand that a person is not happy when he is wailing. A person is not joyful when he is grieving. A person is not in joy when he is mourning. A person is sad, devastated and distressed when he grieves, mourns and wails at the same time. But why? Why should we grieve? Why should we be sad? James tells us to grieve, because we are double-minded, because our hearts are not pure, because we have sinned, because we have turned away from God [James 4:8]. James tells the people to mourn because they have been an adulterous people, and they have become friends with the world, which means that they have made enemies with God. James tells us to wail, because God is there, and he will give us if we ask him, but we do not turn to him and instead we kill, we battle, we quarrel and we fight in order to get what we covet.

Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom – If your joy comes from acts of sin, you should mourn instead of laughing. If your laughter stems from the things you do when you turn away from God, you ought to grieve. All sins should be mourned for, because the wages of sin is death [Rom 3:23]. And no matter how comfortable and secretive we are today with our iniquities, no matter how we can get away with our sins today, we can be sure that our sins will find us out [Num 32:23].

Is that to say that as sinners, we can only grieve and be sad? Is there no joy for us? Is there no hope for us? Is it wrong for us to gain joy, or to enjoy ourselves? No, I most certainly do not think so. James was clearly talking about the people who have turned their backs against God, and instead of worshiping God, instead of finding joy from God, they are finding joy from the things that displeases God. When we find joy in sinning, it is a sign that we have turned away from God. What can we do, then? We need to mourn. We need to repent for the sins that we have committed. When we learn to mourn for our sins, we learn to humble ourselves down and ready our hearts for the Holy Spirit to reenter. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Hope is not lost. Joy is not beyond us. When we have truly repented and mourn for our sins, our God will comfort us, and when we turn back to him, we will rediscover an exceeding joy that comes from the Lord [Psalm 43:4|Article].


There are many who will laugh and make merry even in sinning. Let us be careful not to fall into that trap. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep [Luke 6:25]. Turn back to God, instead, for the Lord has said, return to me and I will return to you [Zech 1:3|Article]. We will likely often fall back into sinning. You may have certain sins that you often revisit. Do not give up. Don’t give up fighting the sin. Don’t give up in returning to God. And most importantly, don’t laugh and make merry while sinning, for you will be doing it at the expense of God.

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