Deep Mirth and Mourning

“How can it be right to laugh when there is so much to grieve?” This is more of a question of context. We clearly must weep, just as we clearly must laugh. There are times for both, as Ecclesiastes says, but what are the proper times? Weeping should not be self-focused, but for others; laughter should be for our own battles, not directed at the tragedies of others. 

As Christians in these dark final days, we find ourselves questioning how we ought to respond emotionally to the brokenness in our world. Tolkien’s response to this dilemma is two-fold: through profound sorrow and profound laughter. Nienna, one of the divine beings in his world of Middle-Earth, “is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda (the world) has suffered in the marring of Melkor (the great Enemy).” Yet she is immediately juxtaposed with Tulkas the wrestler, who “laughs ever, in sport or in war, and even in the face of Melkor he laughed in battles before the Elves were born.” These two responses to deep evil in the world may contrast, but they never clash. There is “a time to weep and a time to laugh,” the Preacher says.

Both of these answers to evil – especially in our time – should surprise us. Do we not mourn enough already? And is laughter appropriate if there is so much to mourn? Both questions are just, and should be answered in turn.

There is indeed much to mourn. Death and suffering surrounds us wherever we look: abortion, euthanasia, drug addiction, homelessness, rampant crime, and human trafficking, to name only a fraction of these horrors. But how often do we truly mourn these human afflictions? Too often on the news I witness the tragic suffering undergone by fellow human beings, and I have not one tear to dry. The news not only cultivates inattention and time-wasting, but also a heart incapable of mourning. What an irony, that amid the deluge of evils, the shocked soul cannot find the sorrow for just one child murdered! The truth is that in our mortality and finitude, we cannot bear such sorrow. But just because we cannot weep for all does not mean we should not weep for some. If you cannot mourn for a church in Nigeria slaughtered by militant Muslims, or for children killed in gang shootouts, you ought not click on the next news piece. That sorrow is enough for you to mourn.

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