The Bare Soul
September 30, 2012
Hope in the House of Mourning
The following is the message
text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Hope in the House of Mourning"
delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on September 27, 2012.
Hope in the House of Mourning
- September 27, 2012
Ecclesiastes 7:2 - It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart.
How does one stay optimistic in the face of despair? What causes the ember of hope to keep burning when every circumstance seeks to extinguish it? Mankind has mourned the loss of loved ones for millennia, and yet we have not "evolved" beyond its necessity. Grief is a God-given emotion that is crucial to our well-being. While it may be uncomfortable, the pain often works as a catalyst to drive us toward a solution. The end of sorrow will result in either a positive or negative outcome. This is often dependent on whether we know Him who allows both pain and sorrow, or conversely laughter and joy. When we allow God to show us His divine plan in the pain, then we gain invaluable insight into His own heart and how He cares for us. Through these lessons of love, we can grow spiritually to help others. However, for those who choose to disregard God and turn from Him as our Sustainer in times of trouble, we might attempt to seek out other "spirits" to provide a balm of solace. While they may offer promise of instantaneous relief, they only compound the problems without allowing pain to have its perfect result.
Throughout the years of my biblical studies, I have reflected on our lead verse and its meaning in regard to hope. In this regard I continue to see the wisdom of Solomon's admonition and the importance of understanding our mortality. This truth rang true with me on a personal level recently. The loss of a loved one often creates a vacuum in our lives. Some have described it as literally sucking the air out of us while we struggle to make sense of human loss. However, as aforementioned, pain has its place in our time of mourning. Many do not want to consider we are but mortal flesh, just passing through life as a vapor (James 4:14). The uncomfortable idea of death is not desirous for consideration. To embrace such a notion warrants either action or apathy. Many, the Lord Jesus tells us, will cling to the latter (Matthew 7:14). However, for the former, there is hope -- a hope that life is more than our day to day struggle here upon earth. The Preacher in this text of Ecclesiastes tells us there is hope if we choose the house of mourning rather than the apathy of the house of feasting. Unfortunately, apathy is often the result of fear and not wanting to act upon sound wisdom. Many are those who are stuck in this valley of decision! (Joel 3:14) They have yet to find the courage to face life on God's terms. Conversely, those who have allowed themselves the luxury of pain understand how it brings us through this hopeless valley and on to a place of strength.
Too many in this valley of despair mourning for loved ones turn to a false balm to ease their pain. They might use medications, illegal drugs, or alcohol to hide from their feelings. As human beings made in the image of God, we are not designed to hide from anything and especially not God. The Lord has dealt with man's betrayal to hide from Him ever since that fateful day in the Garden (Genesis 3:9). When we continue to turn from God, believing we know best regarding how to deal with the pain of suffering, then we lose spirit. However, our turning to God, as Solomon states causes the "living" to take the divine substance of life to his or her heart. In other words, to be alive means to confront life according to the will of God and to face it with courage. The dying, or those without the understanding of God, continue to lose their soul little by little in their denial of God's place in their lives. The former enlarges our hearts, the latter continues to diminish it.
Solomon gives us two choices where to "go" in Ecclesiastes 7:2. We may choose certain pain, where we courageously face our inability to cope with our emotional state on our own. This is a place of vulnerability and discomfort. However, it is honest, truthful, and without guile. That is why others are often there to comfort one another in a time of loss in order to draw upon each other's strengths in a time of crisis. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, or our own inner loss of relationship with a God that seeks our fellowship, we must not hide from God. We must allow His sorrow to do its work within us. Without it, we cannot come to the other side where there is once again peace and joy in living. As the Psalmist states: "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5) May we who seek to hide from God and the pain of mourning find ourselves hidden in Him and drawing upon the strength of the Almighty to bring us through to the other side.
Father of all mercies, may You draw those who are fearful to face the prospect of their own mortality. May You grant these the opportunity to come to You and experience Your grace and love in the house of mourning. May those who find themselves empty at the loss of a loved one recognize their own loss if they were to go into eternity without You. Grant these repentance through Your free gift of salvation. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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