Many of us woke to the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death. He was a beloved writer, chef, and CNN travel host. Saddened not only by the loss of life, the news is Bourdain died taking his own life. This, just days following the suicide of famed designer Kate Spade. Whether it be due to depression or mental illness, the instances of suicide are rising in our country, increasing by 25 percent in over half of U.S. states according to the CDC. It is a study and statistic that might well pass most of us by were it not for the high-profile deaths such as those in the past week.
Thankfully it hasn’t and now we must consider what to do now. Responses rightly include raising awareness of mental illness, paying close attention to warning signs among those close to us, and educating ourselves about available resources for help. As Christians, we also mourn because people are hurting and at moments like this we see that more clearly.
In His famous sermon found in Matthew 5, Jesus taught his disciples to mourn for those who mourn will be comforted. The whole counsel of God overwhelmingly affirms that there is wisdom in mourning as evidenced in the Psalms and Proverbs, much of Jeremiah, and the entire book of Lamentations. Ecclesiastes 7:2 most concisely makes the point.
“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting…” Literally, it’s better to be at a funeral than to a party. Why? “…because that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart.”
The pattern of this world is to dull our senses to the temporality of this life. To mourn is a deliberate act and sober declaration of Kingdom People, “be not so ignorant! This life is not all there is and it is over in an instant.” That is the true nature of things. Our lives are finite. The Devil did lie to Eve in the garden, we are not like God and we certainly will die.
When we mourn our eyes are opened to the true nature of what actually matters in life and where real joy can be found. In verse 4, the writer of Ecclesiastes goes on to say, “The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure.” The life of Anthony Bourdain very much taught us this world is filled with wondrous places, people and sources of pleasure. But, pleasure is fleeting and often takes more than it gives. Spending our time in a house of pleasure has as its purpose to ignore pain.
But for Kingdom people, we know that Jesus does not relieve pain. He resolves it. That’s what we celebrate at Easter – death where is your sting? No one should mourn better than Christians. In pastoral ministry, I often send condolences to those who lose loved ones and I typically encourage them by saying that I’m praying for their time with family. Those moments of gathering as a family to mourn, while sad the sound of crying is frequently quieted and usually by sounds of laughing. Sharing a story, reminiscing, or honestly just enjoying being together with loved ones that you don’t see often enough. That’s not a house of pleasure but a house of mourning. In a house of mourning you find a real and sustaining joy.
This is my prayer for the Bourdain house today, and for the Spade’s. My prayer for Christians everywhere is that we would mourn with them, and in doing so find real comfort from the God of all comfort. With that same comfort, we can comfort those who grieve.
May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4