If you are waiting for the day when you will be “happy” all of the time, I have some news for you. It is never going to happen. I know that many people don’t like to hear this. They want to believe that if they could just get in the right situation they can “get happy” and “stay happy”. What makes people think this, I do not know. Crying is the first thing most of us do when we enter this world. As newborns we are equipped to cry when we don’t get what we need and our parents learn the nuances of our cries, but it takes a while before they can tell the difference between our smiles and gas.
Now does this mean that we are predisposed to crying and sadness? No. But at a minimum it should tell us that crying and sadness are just as much a part of life as smiling and being happy. It’s all here. They are the polarities of life. Up, down, left, right, light, dark. You get the picture. Yet for some reason many of us seek a life that sees only one thing rather than seeing all things as One. We want ups with no downs, rights with no lefts, etc. and we will pay “good” money for someone to convince us how to have the impossible. And people will take our money knowing good and well that what we are looking for does not exist in this world. So why do we fall for it? Who are we trying to fool?
In Proverbs 14:12, 13 Solomon teaches, there is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow and the end of amusement may be grief.
And after giving himself over to every pleasure that he could think of in Ecclesiastes he commented, “I said of laughter—’Madness!’; and of amusement, ‘What does it accomplish?'”
Now am I saying that life should be boring and that people should not have fun? Of course not. What I am saying is that living a life in constant pursuit of amusement is pointless. I imagine it is like being on drugs and always seeking a better high. Like Solomon says, it might seem right, but it leads to death–whether metaphorically or actually. How many of you get sad when you compare your present life to the “happy life” you’ve promised yourself in your mind? Why do you think that is? I think it is because we have become convinced that happiness is supposed to be our default and that any other experience is an affront toward us. However, in reality, every experience we receive serves to lead us closer to God and the wisdom that emerges from our true being. We can never discover this when we are pursuing temporary “happiness”, but when we accept all of it it does become possible to live in perpetual joy. For joy comes in living out of reality rather than out of illusions of our own devising. The wisdom of Solomon teaches us that it is:
Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every person and the living will take it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of amusement. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise than for someone to hear the song of fools. For like the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool. This also is vanity.
I know that that sounds pretty crappy to those of us who want to live “happy” all of the time. And I’m sure it seems counter-intuitive to think that sorrow is better than laughter, but I believe that what Solomon is trying to teach us is that the joy wisdom offers comes from knowing that everything in this life is temporary. If we know things are temporary, then we can appreciate them for what they are. You can savor the things you enjoy in life when you know that they will pass. To be in the house of mourning is not simply to be sad all of the time. The most significant element of mourning is that of remembrance.
We often seek amusement because we do not want to remember certain experiences in life. Perhaps it is the relationship that broke our heart or the parent that was never there. Maybe you gave years of your life to a company, putting your own dreams on hold, only to be laid off. Perhaps you committed a crime when you were young and were labeled a criminal ever since or some other mistake that you don’t want to think about. Or maybe you were just born in a situation that seems to bind you. All you want to do is forget it. But if you can’t do that, then perhaps you can numb it with pleasure.
In contrast, have you ever noticed that when we are in mourning we remember all of the good times and see the hard times in a clearer light? In mourning we also remember are own part in those difficult times and, sometimes for the first time ever, we imagine what we could have done differently. They say hindsight is 20/20, but in the house of mourning everything is seen as it is.
Jesus wanted to share his joy with the world–a joy that he would give everything for. Yet within that joy, the Bible shows him crying, weeping, angry, and mourning. And he also made a great wine, so he knew have to have some fun too. There was no part of humanity that he did not take part in and yet like James taught, he counted it all as joy.
Profiting from Trials
2 My people, count it all as joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to you. 6 But let that person ask in faith, with no doubting, for those who doubt are like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that one suppose that he [or she] will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he/she is double-minded, unstable in all their ways.
This life and everything that is composed of is One. To reject any of it is in essence to deny all of it. You can’t go up by denying down nor can you experience left by pretending that right does not exist. To be with one is to be with all. So don’t buy into the lies of lasting happiness in the future when the gift of joy is available to you right now.