“A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” Ecclesiastes 7:1-2
We all wonder about life after death, don’t we? It’s natural to think about it because sooner or later we’re going to die. That much is certain. A 48-year-old businessman from Saint Louis told me about a friend who asked him, “Have you smelled the first shovel of dirt from your grave yet?” With calm certainty he told me that sooner or later he was going to die of cancer. Twice it had come to him, twice he had beaten it, but the third time he might not be so lucky.
Death is truly the last enemy of the people of God. That’s not my word. It’s what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:26. We can beat many other enemies, but death always wins in the end. We can put it off, dress it up, delay it, or deny it, but to no avail.
A gifted colleague told me that the last year has been the most difficult in his life. His aged father died, his daughter-in-law died of cancer, then his wife of 44 years died of a brain tumor after a two-year illness. In his preaching he openly shares his personal journey through pain and suffering. I don’t think I had gotten three minutes into my message on the providence of God before he put his head on the table and started to weep. Afterwards he gripped my shoulder and said, “I believe all that, but it’s so hard.” He said that at the end, his wife didn’t even recognize him. A hundred times a day she would say, “Who are you?” He wept as I have not seen a man weep in many years.
Jesus wept too. When he stood before the tomb of Lazarus he wept openly. People have wondered why he wept since he knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. I think he wept because he loved Lazarus and because he felt the pain of death. He saw the grief of Mary and Martha and wept for all the suffering that death causes in the world.
Death is the last enemy, and until it is destroyed, we, like Jesus, will weep too.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the lessons learning in the house of mourning. I look forward to the day tears will be forever banished. Amen.
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