Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. James 4:9

How strange that James would tell us to mourn and weep and be miserable, especially when he begins his letter with an encouragement to “consider it all joy.” Even the apostle Paul admonishes us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” If James were running for political office, his opponents might call him a flip-flopper.

We Christians are supposed to pack up our gloomies and send them away, aren’t we? For sure, a joyless Christian is an oxymoron. Solomon said, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” So why does James tell us to stop laughing and start mourning?

Before we can ever find our joy in the Lord we must experience sorrow over our sin. Jesus had this in mind when he said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4), and “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:25b). Before the gospel ever becomes good news to us, we must first receive the bad news that says "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).

Godly sorrow that leads to repentance is a necessary and healthy part of the Christian life. Paul says as much to the Corinthians who needed to get right with God,

“I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything through us” (2 Cor. 7:9).

Where are the tears? Have you lost your ability to sorrow over sin? Have you become too light-hearted and cavalier with the things that grieve the heart of God? Has godly sorrow led you to repentance?

This attitude is typical of those who have become friends of the world. They ignore the terrifying reality of God’s judgment while they say, “Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Shallow is the laughter and joy that presumes upon God’s grace and continues in a life of sin.

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