It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy. The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure. (Eccl. 7:2-4, NASB)
When I was younger—nearly 25 years ago—I spent a lot of time partying. Feasting and laughter was all I wanted. I never spent a day mourning for anyone or anything, but then I never thought about the end of life either. Solomon says, “The mind of the wise is in the house of mourning, while the mind of fools is in the house of pleasure” (Eccl. 7:4). “The fool is one who thinks only of the present; he lives for the hour. He shuns places of sadness and death, because they contradict his lifestyle.” I was a fool.
There is a place for laughter and joy and celebration, and there is a place for weeping and mourning. “Laughter can be like medicine that heals the broken heart, but sorrow can be like nourishing food that strengthens the inner person. It takes both for a balanced life, but few people realize this.” Earlier in the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon declared there’s “a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). The Bible clearly recognizes both. However, when comparing mourning with feasting, and sorrow with laughter, Solomon says, “it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting” (Eccl. 7:2), and “sorrow is better than laughter” (Eccl. 7:3).
When a man enters the house of mourning he is faced with the reality that someday he will die, and this experience can be healthy, when viewed from the divine perspective. Solomon wants us to know that death is “the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart” (Eccl. 7:2). “Such a perspective forces the individual to face the reality of death toward which all life inevitably points.” Not only does the house of mourning make us think about the day of our death, but it can also draw our thoughts toward heaven and make us think about God and where we will spend eternity. When a man is on his deathbed, he does not ask for a book on science, or a book on history, or a book on mathematics, rather he asks for THE BOOK, because he knows his days are near. May the fear of the Lord “teach us to consider our mortality, so that we might live wisely” (Ps. 90:12, NET).I walked a mile with Pleasure; She chattered all the way, But left me none the wiser For all she had to say I walked a mile with Sorrow, And not a word said she; But oh, the things I learned from her When Sorrow walked with me!
—Robert Browning Hamilton
Steven R. Cook, D.Min.
- Suffering and Depression
- The Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53
- God Wrestled with Jacob
- Early Church Persecutions
 James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1996), Eccl. 7:2–4.
 Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Satisfied, “Be” Commentary Series (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 19.
 Barry C. Davis, “Ecclesiastes 12:1-8—Death, an Impetus for Life” Bibliotheca Sacra, 148 (1991): 301.