Words of Hope: The Wisdom of Sorrow

I recently went to a memorial, and one of the main verses was Ecclesiastes 7:2. I took time to look at this verse in various translations. The King James version says, “Sorrow is better than Laughter; for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” My mom’s favorite version of the Bible is the amplified version—her version of this verse says, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad (deep in thought), the heart may be happy [because it is growing in wisdom].”  

I resonate with this verse. I know that my sorrow has required much of me. It has required me to test my beliefs, evaluate how I spend my time, consider what I will do with my pain, and how I want to live. It reminds me of the training our family received on Ignatius’s daily examen to consider the consolations and desolations of life. Dad would remind me in desolation to be glad because consolation is coming. In comfort, take warning because discomfort is coming. This desolation/consolation is life’s cycle. Life is not without sorrow, and attempting to avoid all suffering in life leads to ignorance and foolishness.

If I could converse with Dad on this verse, I would ask him how sorrow connects to depth and profundity of thought. I know he would have said Words of Hope could not have emerged without his deep sorrows and his wrestling with cancer. He often referred to the reminder that a heart of wisdom comes from numbering our days. I notice how the finitude of my life on earth compels me to live differently and presents a daily question—how do I want to live?

Memorials, by nature, bring us back to the basics of life. What matters?

Do I want to worry about this situation?

Do I want to be bitter about this person?

Do I want to horde up riches, and for what purpose? 

as well as

Who do I want to bless today?

How can I honor God with my words?

How can I more fully love Jesus?

How can I more fully love everyone I meet?

The pastor at the funeral said this man came naked into the world, and naked, he exited the world. I look at all my accumulation of things and items. Then I remember the beauty of Dad’s celebration of life memorial—all the lives he has touched all around the world—many for eternity. What a beautiful reminder in my sorrow that a happy heart does not emanate from external wealth, thrilling adventures, or anything the world recommends, but a cheerful heart emerges from the most profound service, love, hope, and delight in the Lord.

“A good name is better than fine perfume, and one’s day of death is better than his day of birth. It is better to enter a house of morning than a house of feasting, since death is the end of every an, and the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for a sad countenance is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” – Ecclesiastes 7: 1-4