by Frans Bakker
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. —Ecclesiastes 7:2, 3
The book of Ecclesiastes counsels us to enter the house of mourning. We are to meditate on our own death and lay these matters up in our hearts. Where do you then end up? You end up in hidden places where you will meet God. There you will fall down before the throne of grace as one who mourns about his own death. There you will realize that the cause of your own death is sin. Then you learn to die while you are still alive, and you come to understand that dying is nothing more than an encounter with God.
So, to mourn is still better than to laugh. Those who know this mourning will say that themselves. They do not want to exchange these tears for all the joy of this world. This is mourning after God, a sorrow after God. Even if they cannot see all this themselves, Christ says of these tears: “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).
Ecclesiastes says, “By the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” The cold heart, the indifferent heart, the hard heart, is broken by mourning. This is the new birth of the heart. For when we pay attention in the house of mourning it leads to a different life, to a new life. The heart will be made better. It is better to be in the house of mourning because it leads to our everlasting profit.
There is a sweet fruit that comes forth from the bitterness of death, and we learn to know another “better.” That is the “better” we find in what the psalmist says: “Because thy lovingkindness is better than life” (Ps. 63:3). But we can never realize enough that the comfort for those who mourn is only to be found in Christ. True comfort will only be in Him who was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” because of the terrors of hell (Matt. 26:38). It would have been an everlasting mourning for us if the Surety had never been in that house of mourning.
Never can the comfort for a child of God be in his own tears. True comfort lies only in Christ and in His suffering. That is why the only comfort to be found in the house of mourning is the comfort flowing from the Surety. The Surety is truly waiting for those who have learned to mourn because of their miserable end. That is why it is better to be in the house of mourning.
From The Everlasting Word by Frans Bakker, compiled and translated by Gerald R. Procee. Reformation Heritage Books and Free Reformed Publications, 2007. Used by permission. For further information, click here.