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 take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, For by a sad 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
Solomon does not want you to spend daily time thinking about your death. What he wants you to see is that wisdom is forged in the fires of mourning, trouble, and disappointment. Fools with frivolous, carefree attitudes do not learn from the experiences of life. When wise men and women face adversity, such as death, disease, and destruction, they learn fresh lessons from God, they take the lessons to heart, and they become better instead of bitter. It is a choice.
This has been one of the deepest secrets of the greatest saints. Listen to this passage from the founder of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor:
The great enemy is always ready with his oft-repeated suggestion, “All things are against me.” But, oh, how false the word! The cold, and even the hunger, the watchings and sleeplessness of nights of danger, and the feelings at times of utter isolation and helplessness, were well and wisely chosen, and tenderly and lovingly meted out. What circumstances could have rendered the Word of God sweeter, and the presence of God so real, and the help of God so precious.1
Have you ever had a day where you missed every green traffic light, spilled your coffee on your best jacket, saw your baseball team lose in the ninth inning, and generally seemed to be living out an audition for poster child for Murphy’s Law? You grumble, “Everything is against me! It’s all set up to make my life miserable!” Taylor is saying it’s precisely the opposite.
God desires to lovingly use every inconvenience, every bad day, every trial, to make us stronger and wiser and closer to Him.
There is an old clipping from the devotional magazine Our Daily Bread that illustrates this in a practical way. During World War II, a man in Sussex, England, sent some money to the Scripture Gift Mission. He enclosed a letter saying that he longed to give more, but the harvest on his farm had been very disappointing because of a lack of water. He was also fearful because German bombs were being dropped in the area, and his family and farm were at risk. He asked the workers of Scripture Gift Mission to pray that no bombs would fall on his land.
Mr. Ashley Baker wrote back from the mission and said that while he did not feel led to pray that exact prayer, he had prayed that God’s will for their lives would prevail. Shortly after, a huge German missile crashed down on the farm. None of the man’s family or live-stock was harmed, but the bombshell went so far into the ground that it liberated a submerged stream. The stream yielded enough water to irrigate the man’s farm as well as neighboring farms. The next year, due to a bountiful harvest, the man was able to send a large offering to the mission.2
Sometimes even bombs are blessings.
They fall from Heaven, make a lot of noise, and liberate something wonderful within us — streams of living water that refresh us and draw us closer to Christ.
Of course, we never seek the bombs or the burdens. We like festivals — parties. The truth is that no one grows wiser who lives the party life. The year in your life when everything goes well is the year you will gain the least maturity. As someone says, if we learned from our mistakes, we ought to be PhDs by now. We should also be all the wiser in our faith.
I can speak by experience. The richest and most probing time in my life as an adult began when cancer became a part of my vocabulary. I never sought it, I never welcomed it, but I have never doubted the blessings that God has indeed showered upon me through it. There are things I simply never could have learned with an unmitigated, unbridled, uninterrupted success pattern in my life.
That is why God is not as concerned about our being momentarily happy as He is about our being mature. We wonder why He does not seem to answer the prayer by the side of the road when the tire is flat or why He is silent during this or that crisis. God seems cruel and unfeeling at those moments, but the truth is that even though He hurts for us, He knows that if He protected us from every inconvenience, we would never cease being infants. There must be rain, and there must even be a few tornadoes and wildfires. Such is the university of life.
We are beginning to see the light. The highest purpose of life is not happiness. But as we take the blows that life brings us on the way home from the festival, as we suffer the unpitying rain that falls on the just as well as the unjust, as we keep right on moving down the road toward heaven on earth, often not happy at all — miserable is more like it — we begin to see the light in the distance. We begin to realize that, when we reach that final destination, then we will be paid richly in the coin of happiness. We will realize that, until now, we never knew what happiness was — and never could have enjoyed it so richly now without the sorrow that was preparing our hearts all along the path.
1.Hudson Taylor, To China with Love (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1972), 62–63.
- Our Daily Bread, published by Radio Bible Class, date unknown.
Excerpted with permission from 31 Days to Happiness by David Jeremiah, copyright David Jeremiah.
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We have the tendency to pray, “No bombs, Lord! No bombs!”, don’t we? And yet, God our Father knows what is best for us and He knows how we need to grow and mature. What if we prayed for God’s will to prevail? Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you!