“For thus says the Lord:
Do not enter the house of mourning, or go to lament or grieve for them….
Behold, I will silence in this place…the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness…”
I love celebrations. Weddings. New babies. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Graduations. Reunions. Housewarmings. Funerals of saints who have entered the promised land. I love them all. So the other day, I was horrified by God’s warning in Jeremiah 16 about what would happen to the kingdom of Judah if the people didn’t shape up in a hurry.
In a nutshell, God said, “Don’t go to funerals and comfort grieving family members. Don’t console hurting people or mourn for the dead. Don’t join in celebrations either. But that won’t be hard, because I’m ending weddings and all other happy events because you have forsaken me and followed after other gods.”
My party-loving heart shriveled at this picture of a world devoid of consolation or celebration. “My God,” I whispered, “You are describing hell on earth.”
I can imagine nothing worse than a world without God’s compassion and kindness displayed by those who reach out to others in times of great sorrow, by those who gather to rejoice in times of great celebration. Without these simple acts of shared sorrow and joy, we don’t fully experience the presence of God. He is still there, of course, because He is omnipresent. But when we forsake Him and put anything–work, family, material possessions, pleasure, power, reputation, and a host of other idols–ahead of Him, we are not in the place where He chooses to rain down grace through fellowship with His saints.
My faithful heart doesn’t want to be in that place, though my wandering eyes and fickle feet often lead me there. It’s not the place God wanted Judah to be, or He wouldn’t have sent Jeremiah to warn them to change their course. It’s not a place where God wants you, His adopted child in Christ to be, either.
God wants His children to be in right relationship with Him and one another. He made us for relationship with Him. He places an emptiness in each of us only He can fill. Only when it’s filled with Him are we able to share the kindness and compassion of Christ with lost and hurting people. Only then are we able to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.
Only then is the power of Christ unleashed in the lives of others. Stony hearts grow soft. The deaf hear Jesus calling to them. Blind eyes open to the presence of God. Thirsty souls drink the elixir of life. The hungry eat everlasting bread. The lame walk in the place where the grace of Christ rains down.
When we mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice from the vantage point of a right relationship with God, we experience the certain presence of God. Our daily offerings of the kindness and compassion of Christ in fellowship with the saints are, most certainly, glimpses of heaven on this earth.