A Strange Command

Keep your head up. It's not that bad. Stay positive. Don't let it bring you down.


We are used to hearing these common sayings as well as offering up the same advice if someone close to us is feeling discouraged.


But what about this? James counsels, "Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom" (James 4:9). It sounds quite strange, doesn't it? What does the Scripture have in mind in saying this?


To be sure, the Christian should live a life of victory and joy. Yet there is a time when we need to be brought low. There is the occasion in which we must recognize our sinfulness and repent.


Ours is a world filled with levity. Most desire to feel good at any cost. The first instance of pain brings about a passionate desire to alleviate it. We do not generally do well with brokenness, sadness, loss, or defeat.


Enter James. James steps up and -- strange to our ears -- actually encourages us to mourn and weep. He implores us to do away with our laugher and embrace a sense of gloom instead.


There is a time for brokenness. We must resist pride if we are going to be holy. And the best way to avoid pride is to take time to get down-wind of our sin and allow our hearts to grieve over our transgressions. James says that we are to wash our hands (confess sins that we have committed with our bodies) and purify our hearts (confess sins that we committed with our minds, attitudes, and motives).


If we truly see our sin for what it is, we will be humbled. If we see the Lord in His glory and perfections, we will stop thinking too highly of ourselves. It is when we recognize our sinfulness and God's holiness that we are truly humbled. And the good news? James reminds us that "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). The road to humility is paved with repentance. And the path of repentance is lined with grace. Amazing!


We might say that James 4:9 is a door we walk through, not a room we live in. We need to walk through the door of repentance that we might rest in the sweet living room of joy. As has been said, "We can laugh now at sin and then mourn later in the judgment. Or we can mourn over sin now and be delivered in the judgment."


James 4:9 is applied when the non-Christian repents of their sin and turns in faith to trust the Lord Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. For the believer, it is a helpful reminder, that even as Christians, we must often repent of our sin and continually live in humility.


Suggestion for Personal or Family Devotion


  • Listen to the song "I Repent" by clicking here

  • Read Psalm 51

  • Consider these questions: What is biblical repentance? Is there a difference between true repentance and worldly sorrow? Why is repentance necessary?

  • Read 2 Corinthians 7:10. What does this verse add to your understanding of repentance?

  • Take time to pray and confess your sin. Repent and ask the Lord for forgiveness. Be encouraged that the Lord gives grace to those who turn to Him.

  • Conclude your time of personal or family worship by singing along to the great hymn "Here is Love" by clicking here

To view the sermon from James 4:6-10 dealing with repentance, click here

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