“Woe is me! My boss bawled me out. I had a fight with my spouse. I don’t have enough money to pay the bills this month. I don’t feel good. Woe is me!”
The perhaps antiquated (and grammatically incorrect) phrase “woe is me” is a way of saying that you are sad or upset about something. As in the example above, the phrase could be used to express how you are feeling at a particular time. However, in practice, the phrase is more likely to get attached to people who seem to always be sad or upset about something. Or, who go through life feeling sorry for themselves. “I can’t do anything right.” “Nothing ever works out for me.”
This phrase could have been used quite frequently in Old Testament times. Serving God was quite different then than it is for us today. Jesus hadn’t come yet. The people didn’t have the Holy Ghost within them. They were often in a sinful condition. They were often persecuted. It’s no great surprise that they often approached God in an attitude of “woe is me,” typically combined with fasting.
“There was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing.” (Esther 4:3)
“I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting.” (Psalms 69:10)
“Now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” (Joel 2:12)
As time passed, specific days and times were set aside for Jews to go to the temple and participate in this type of fasting, displaying their sadness by weeping and mourning over their condition in life. On the occasions that the Pharisees (and unconverted disciples of John the Baptist) went to the temple to do this, they noticed some people missing — the disciples of Jesus. This is what leads to the question that is posed to Jesus while He is at Matthew’s house:
“Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?” (Mark 2:18)
Instead of trying to make excuses for His disciples not attending these sessions, Jesus responds in a way that makes it clear who He is:
“Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them?” (Matthew 9:15)
In this short parable, Jesus is likening the time that He is with the disciples to a wedding celebration. During such a celebration, with everything provided for a wonderful time, it would be senseless (and disrespectful to the bridegroom) to be sad and lamenting your own problems in life. While the bridegroom (Jesus in this parable) is present, the celebration is underway so it’s a time for joy, not sadness. The disciples have no need to be sad — Jesus is with them!
Today, we are blessed to have Jesus with us at all times. Everything has been provided for our lives to be a time of celebration. Yes, we will be sad from time to time. Yes, we should be humble and repentant when we fall short. But, in all cases, the Lord is there to pick us up such that we don’t have to go through life with a “woe is me” attitude.
The enemy will try to discourage you and make you think that the Lord doesn’t care about you. It’s true that things will go wrong in life. And that you will see others blessed in ways that you are not. However, if you have given your life to Christ, then He has provided all of these blessings (and more) for you to enjoy:
- Forgiveness of our sins
- The Holy Ghost residing within us
- The restored gospel of Jesus Christ
- Expectations for the future kingdom of God
- A place in the family of God with brothers and sisters in Christ
- The joy of salvation
- The hope of eternal life in the mansions of heaven
Woe is me? No, woe are the people who don’t have Christ in their lives! They may enjoy some brief happiness in this life, but they miss out on all of the above — and the blessings that God provides in this life too!
With our names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, we are on the guest list for the biggest celebration of all time. In the meantime, we are living in the day that the Lord has made for us — let us rejoice and be glad in it!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.