Solomon told us that it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Is he crazy? I don’t think so. The person who is always partying knows not the reality of this broken world. All the world is not a party. The person who regularly visits the house of mourning becomes increasingly in touch with the myriad ways in which this world is broken. That doesn’t have to ruin a person. It could prepare a person.
Jesus regularly visited the house of mourning. Jesus was a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3). He looked over Jerusalem and longed for them to change their ways (Luke 13:34). He understood to the greatest extent the deadness of man to God, and thus the separations that have entered into the world by sin. He did not smile at all times, just to make things feel better. He wept (John 11:35). He experienced the pain of losing a friend (John 11). He knew the suffering of a child losing his father (Luke 23:46). He felt the pangs of hunger (Matthew 4:2). He made himself like us in every respect (Hebrews 2:17). There is not one pain in this world that God himself has not experienced in the person of Jesus Christ.
By his visitation to the house of mourning, Jesus was prepared for the cross. In his death – his real space-time death – he felt all of the brokenness of this world, all of the separation of God and man, all of the full weight of all that is terrible and horrible and awful. And he let it crush him. He didn’t turn away. He didn’t avoid it. He faced it. He defeated it.
I know the right answer to the brokenness of the world. I can restate the theological points of sin and redemption. I can answer the question as to why death exists and why pain feels the way it does. I can research and explain the particular type of cancer, it’s symptoms and treatments, it’s mortality rate and curability. But what I can’t answer with mere words is the reality that Jesus put himself under it all and let it crush the life out of him. That is too wonderful for me. It is a truth that is beyond me, but that sustains me.
The one thing you can know more than the “right” answers is that the God you worship understands at the deepest level the suffering that you can only see the surface of. The tears you have cried are not scorned by God. They are gathered by God into his bottle (Psalm 56:8). He is not trying to pep you up, cheer you up, or give you the bright side of things. He’s waiting for a day when he will wipe away every tear from your eyes (Revelation 21:4) – not as if they were never there, but in full recognition of the pain that caused them.
When there is no good news and everything feels hard and wrong. When the ball of irritation, fatigue, burden, sadness, and despair won’t go away, Jesus is there. He’s not there only in the feast – who wants a God who overlooks our sadness? He’s there in the house of mourning with you. He’s beside you in the pew with tears in his eyes. He’s crying with you because of all people in the universe he truly knows what it means to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).
So when there is no good news the only way forward is to lean into The Good News himself. The goal is not to pull yourself up, but to lean into Jesus the person. He alone is strong enough to see you in your sorry state and stay with you like the immoveable friend that you really need. We may never find the answer to the bad news in a way that will satisfy us in this lifetime, because the ways of God are too deep for us. But we can find the answer to the good news in a way that will more than satisfy us, and it will be surprising that the way to him is found best in the house of mourning. Jesus knows our frame. He does not need anyone to tell him what is in man, for he himself knows what is in man (John 2:25). You can be glad for that. You need not explain yourself to him, he understands your pain because he has shared in it. In that very hard moment, with tears in your eyes, is the moment of the cross. Look upon it as a moment with the dying Lord, as he sits alive with you in the pain, patiently bringing you to the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).
One day we will feast, and we will laugh, and we will smile with unending joy. But today if you need to weep, weep with Christ, for he is a God who knows what it means to cry (John 11:35). He understands you and is with you. Take heart, he alone has overcome the world (John 16:33). You don’t have to.