Why I Cannot Be Happy
Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble. For the LORD will be displeased with you and will turn his anger away from them – Prov. 24:17-18
When I read about the death of Amy Winehouse, and my first thoughts were, “She was so young.” My next thoughts were, “She died at twenty-seven? So did Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. I hope this is just a tragic coincidence.”
As the postings about her death circulated the internet, I was a bit dismayed to read the comments from a variety of people. Some expressed sadness, while others replied, “Who cares?” and “Why does this affect me?” I’m sure others felt she had it coming since she was known for her substance abuse. After reading these comments, I felt confused and hurt at the callousness of some people—even those who say they are Christians.
I found myself confused and hurt in the same way when O.J. Simpson was running from the police on the highways of Southern California. It wasn’t fun to watch him evade capture, and I didn’t hope he “get what he had coming to him.” I didn’t, and still don’t, have enough knowledge of his situation to make a judgment.
The same is true for Casey Anthony. Many people are so absolutely sure of her guilt, they walk around mad that she got off. Would they feel better if Casey got the electric chair? Would they sleep better at night knowing justice was served? Are they so good at being judge and jury that they can condemn without knowing all the evidence?
Although I didn’t personally know Amy or O.J., I knew that their difficulties in life could not be, as Proverbs 24:17-18 says, a source of my rejoicing. I cannot say I love God, believe in His holiness and Word, and then take pleasure when people I may not like or agree with fall on hard times or die. Besides, Ezekiel 33:11 says, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take not pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”
I guess I’m not as surprised by the death and destruction of people who are confronting their own demons as I am by the attitudes of people who should know better. My God loved the world so much He sent His only Son to die in order to restore a relationship that was long ago broken. That love of God leaves me no room to rejoice when scared, hurting, confused or even evil people are destroyed. I simply cannot be happy when they finally stumble and fall, for I know the love that God shows me through Jesus is the same love He desired to show them.