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  • Writer's pictureRon Heisey

Mourn to be happy

Updated: May 31, 2022

We live in a culture obsessed with happiness. For most of the population, especially in the western cultures, their holy grail is happiness: The Woodstock generation was seeking love and happiness. Their path was sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Many of our top pop songs have been about happiness- here are some of the top examples:

1958- My Happiness, by Connie Francis 1959- The Happy Organ, by Dave Cortez 1963- If you wanna be Happy, by Jimmy Soul 1967- Happy Together, by the Turtles 1969- You’ve made me so very Happy, by Blood, Sweat, and Tears 1969- Love can make you Happy, by Mercy 1988- Don’t Worry- be happy, by Bobby McFerrin 2015- Happy, by Pharrell Williams And who can forget the Happy Days theme song. Now let that replay in your head all week. When we take our children to McDonalds, do they order a sad meal? Nope. When most parents are asked what they want for their children when they grow up, the most popular answer? I just want them to be happy. Some of us take illegal drugs to become happy. There are marijuana, cocaine, heroin, prescription painkillers, and many more. Many of us abuse alcohol: Why? We like the pleasant buzz it gives us, the temporary escape from our problems, the fleeting happiness. We meditate to achieve happiness and contentment. We sweat and pant to achieve the “runners high”. Americans chase the high- we want to be happy, and will go to any lengths to achieve it. Is it wrong, then, for us to pursue happiness? Is it a worthy goal for us to pursue? Should we pursue it to the exclusion of everything else? how best do we pursue it? It becomes obvious to us that there must be something missing in our lives if we must go to such extremes to find happiness. Blaise Pascal puts it this way: “If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy”. Does the Bible show us any paths that will lead us to happiness? There is one, and it will disappoint a lot of people. We have come to understand that God’s ways and standards are rarely the same as modern culture’s. It should not surprise us, then, when we read Matthew 5:4 from the Amplified Bible: “Blessed and enviably happy {with a happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace} are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “ But this is backwards, right? Happy are those who mourn? Certainly it’s not how our culture pursues happiness. Mourning the path to happiness? Several years ago I lost my father. My eldest son and I lowered his remains into a freshly dug grave. We mourned, and it was not a time any of us were particularly happy. Mourning hurts. How can that ever turn into happiness? Let’s consider some areas where our mourning can be turned into happiness. 1. When you lose what you want, you can gain what you need. So often, what we want or expect out of life doesn’t happen. We might even have good desires that aren’t necessarily outside of God’s will, but when they don’t come to pass, it can lead to our mourning. Sometimes it’s even more difficult. You might lose health, loved ones, a job. Certainly not minor things. But God can show up in the midst of these things and give us what we truly need. Usually what we need in circumstances like these is God’s presence, and that presence becomes more real to us in times of need. What Satan would love to use to harm us, distract us, or cause us to weep, God can use to teach us, sharpen us, and give us lasting joy because we’ve learned to rely on Him. We can think of Job’s story. Job was a Godly and a prosperous man. The devil was allowed to take away the physical things Job valued most, his great herds of livestock, his servants, his children, and finally even his health. As satan directed horrible personal attacks against Job and his family, he certainly mourned. But at his decision point Job chose to be faithful, and his blessings were restored. 2. When you lose your dreams, you can gain God’s vision. When our ideas of what we want out of life don’t happen the way we always dreamed they would, it can wreck us. But sometimes in that space between expectation and reality, God can infuse in us a new vision for what He wants us to do. What we’ll find in time is that God’s vision for us and our future is far better than what we had in mind. It can produce mourning when life takes our dreams away, but if we can find a way to trust God’s vision, that mourning can turn into joy. In this case we can think about Joseph. In Genesis 37 we read that Joseph was Israel’s favorite son, and he had big plans for him. But his jealous brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, just the first of his misfortunes. He was also later unjustly thrown into prison. Joseph, while mourning, chose to be faithful. As a result, God blessed Joseph beyond anything he could have imagined. He ultimately became, next to Pharaoh, the most powerful man in Egypt, and was able to be a blessing to his entire family. 3. When you lose your perfection, you can gain God’s grace. Sometimes what causes us to mourn is our own sin. King David mourned over his sin after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her husband. We also see the Prodigal son in Jesus’ parable return to his father in a state of mourning and repentance over his sin. Mourning is the appropriate response to sin, and it is the only response to sin that leaves room for grace. When we face our failures and mourn appropriately, then God’s grace has room to operate because our pride has been broken down. As long as we remain self-sufficient, we cannot be dependent on God. In each of the above examples there was a pivot point- a point where they had to choose. We too will face at least one moment where we must decide whether to trust our mourning to God, to lean into Him, or to stubbornly face life on our own. We always have a choice! In times of mourning, we can become bitter, or we can become better. Bitter people turn away from God’s grace, those desiring to become better will lean into it. I’m here to suggest that the choices we make at those pivot points will determine our destiny. When we lose what we want in life, when our dreams are shattered, when we are face to face with our sin, if, in our mourning, we lean into God, He will show up at the right time, and His strength can become our own. Is God interested in our happiness? He is, but He is more interested in our holiness. Indeed, mourning will be a part of our lives. Not to think so is naïve. But In that regard, mourning is often a necessary component of the Christian life, on the way to true joy and happiness. Charles Spurgeon concludes this much better than I ever could. He said this on this subject: “I believe the holier a man becomes, the more he mourns over the unholiness which remains in him.” Ron Heisey


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