“The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth” (Ecclesiastes 7:4).
This verse has often run through my mind this past couple of years. I have provoked many houses to mourning. Others call my fellow police chaplains and me “grim reapers” because we announce to families that a loved one has just died. Sometimes people react in shock, denial, or anger. Eventually they mourn as they accept their loss.
We sometimes inform family that the death has come about in the pursuit of unholy mirth. In their foolish rush for pleasure (usually drugs), the pursuers find death instead. All in a moment, what was a house of mirth for one becomes a house of mourning for others. The Lord has given me some bits of wisdom in these houses to see firsthand the horrific results of indulging alcohol, marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. The first two drugs often lead to one of the next, and the constant combination of some or all of the above often leads to an early death.
And God is sovereign over this death. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). God has decreed all things, including our appointment with death. The untimely death of a loved one surprises the ones who love, but God knew this time would come. He appointed it. And then He judges the deceased.
These truths arrested my attention in full when I read the words of a decoration in one of the houses mentioned above: “Good morning. This is God. I will be handling all your problems today.” How God sometimes handles the problems of sin is terrible to consider. The lifeless sinners come to know a horrific reality: “Our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). Their problems of sin on earth are over. But their problem of eternal judgment has only just begun.
And then another bit of wisdom comes to mind that I know for myself and try to offer in a prayer. A truncated version goes something like this: “Dear Lord, You know what death is because you sent your Son to die for our sins on the cross. And He knows what death is because He died for us. I pray that you would give comfort during this time of grief, knowing that you have conquered death through Christ and that He is coming again one day. Be with the family now in each of the steps ahead. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.”
It is one bit of wisdom to know that we die. It is quite another to know that Christ has died for our sins, that He has conquered death, and that we can conquer death through Him. May God give us grace to be the be the wiser for considering these deaths today.
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