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Saturday, March 30, 2019

The House of Mourning

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to California to support my friend Lynnie, who had lost the love of her life to GBM brain cancer. I met Lynnie a few months ago in a Facebook support group for women whose husbands have GBM brain cancer. I discovered that Lynnie lived in Chicago and that her husband, Bobby, was being treated at Northwestern like Wayne. We started attending the brain cancer support group at Northwestern around that same time. In the support group, we were given the opportunity to get to know Bobby and Lynnie better. I know that there are no accidents in this life. Meeting and getting to know Bobby and Lynnie was not by accident. I know that God placed me in Lynnie's life for a purpose. That purpose was to be a light. 





God calls us to be the aroma of Christ to the world around us. Walking with someone through the death of a loved one is difficult, but it provides us not only a chance to show the love of Jesus, but it also gives us a chance to stop and reflect. According to Ecclesiastes, it is better to go to the house of mourning then to a house of feasting. Bobby and Lynnie are Jewish, which allowed me to experience a different kind of funeral. The service was beautiful and I loved hearing the scriptures read in Hebrew. Bobby was buried at Mount Sinai cemetery in California, which was one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen. 





After the funeral, they hold a Shiva, which is a seven day period of mourning. In Old Testament times this was a time of outward mourning where people would rip their clothes, they would weep and wail, they wouldn't eat, and they put ashes on their head. Friends would go to the house of mourning to visit, mourn, and eat with the family. At Bobby's funeral, the modern version of ripping your clothes was performed. The Rabbi placed a ribbon on each of the family members and then the Rabbi ripped the ribbon to symbolize the tearing of one's clothes, which is called Kriah. It is so beautiful to see Jewish practices and realize the Jesus participated in all of these during His life on earth. I love the heritage that we share! The Rabbi quoted Psalm 121, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible that talks about the help that God gives us!




Experiencing this Jewish funeral made the verses in the Bible come alive, especially the verses from Ecclesiastes above. As I sat grieving with my friend and her loved ones, it reminded me how precious life is. If you attend a party or banquet, chances are that you aren't contemplating and evaluating your life. Most likely, you are laughing and enjoying yourself. Laughter is good for us. In fact, in Proverbs 17:22, it says that a joyful/cheerful heart is good medicine. The danger is that we tend to run from our problems or from the gravity of life and death. We prefer laughing and good times instead of pondering that our lives are but a vapor (James 4:14). 

Sorrow, although it is painful, leads us to reflective thinking about our lives. We try to avoid death and suffering, and yet these are the very things that God uses to mold and shape us to make us more into His image. Suffering and sorrow lead to eternal benefits, which are far greater than the temporary pleasures that one experiences at a party. 

How do you respond to sorrow, pain and suffering? When you are a child of God, He walks along side you and comforts you in ways no person or substitute can. Experiencing joy in the midst of trials, suffering, and loss seems to contradict one another. But, when your joy comes from the Lord, it is unending and unexplainable. Will there be sadness and tears, absolutely! Even Jesus wept when Lazarus died. 

Sorrow, pain and suffering is all around us. Tomorrow the girls and I will attend the wake of an amazing, godly woman who I have known for about fifteen years. We spent hours canning together and just talking about Jesus. Although it is sad to see her go, I know that she is in heaven rejoicing with her Savior!

This morning I wept with my friend Lori. Her father is in the hospital facing a very dire future with cancer. We wept over the phone and prayed together over her father. Although we prayed for a physical healing, the more important prayer of our hearts was for his salvation. 

The hardest part of attending a funeral is knowing the person didn't know Jesus as their Savior. I have attended quite a few funerals. There is a huge difference between the funerals I have attended. Last year I attended the funeral of a man who faithfully loved and served Jesus up until his final breath. His funeral was a celebration of a life well lived and a "celebration" of his home coming. His family didn't mourn as those without hope, but as those with hope that they will one day be reunited with him in heaven. I attended another funeral a few years ago and the person was an unbeliever. It was a very somber, sad funeral as the family mourned without hope. Both families experienced sorrow and sadness over their loved ones, but the difference was hope or the lack of hope. Jesus is the one that provides the hope that makes the difference! He can turn our mourning into joy.

Psalm 30:5 "...weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning."

Jeremiah 31:13 "...For I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and give them joy for their sorrow."

Back to Ecclesiastes 4 and the deep truths contained within those verses. My challenge is for you to attend funerals. Don't be afraid to ponder and consider death. Death is inevitable for all of us and no one is promised a long life. Through sorrow we consider the seriousness of life, we take inventory of our lives, we evaluate our situations, and we make changes to our lives. It is human nature to look more seriously at God when we experience suffering and sorrow. We realize that we can not do life on our own. Our times of need lead us to depend on Him and His strength to make it through. The trick is to remind ourselves when life is "good" and "going well" to keep that same dependence on Him. 

I know that when Wayne was going through his brain cancer treatments, that God used that time to draw my heart closer to Him. He created a depth in my soul that I couldn't have reached any other way. I look back in my life and I know there are very specific times that my faith grew deeper during painful suffering and trials. But I would not trade those experiences because of the work God has done in my life.

Allow God to do the work He wants to do in your life. Is it hard and painful to allow God to mold and shape us? Yes! But is it worth it? Absolutely! He will walk along side you and will fulfill His promises because He is faithful. We may not see His purpose this side of heaven, but we can rest in the knowledge of who He is and the promises He has given us.

Job 8:21 "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy."

Please pray for my friend Lori and her dad, for Lynnie as she mourns the loss of Bobby, for my friend Mary and her husband Jonathan who is fighting brain cancer, for the Deal family as they mourn the loss of Edna, and for the salvation of any of these who do not know Jesus, who is the HOPE that I live on every day!

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