I am often troubled when I attend a funeral, and the leader refuses to let the people mourn. Those in charge of funeral arrangements, and often the families themselves, put so much effort into making the occasion a celebration of life, a graduation to heaven, that those in attendance might feel like their faith is weak if they were to shed tears of sorrow, but the opposite is true.
As believers, we should not grieve like those who have no hope, but that does not mean we should not grieve at all (1 Thes. 4:13). Death is still an enemy; it is the last enemy to be destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26). I understand other factors may come into play. After a long period of suffering, it is understandable to feel relief when the Lord brings their pain to an end and takes them home. During such times, much of the grieving takes place while they are still with us, but grieving is still part of the process. However, the general tendency in American evangelicalism to avoid and ignore the grief caused by death is why the following words by John Angell James are so needed in the church today.
When a holy and beloved object of our affection is removed by death, we ought to sorrow, humanity demands it, and Christianity, in the person of the weeping Jesus, allows it. The man without a tear, is a savage or a stoic, but not a Christian.
God intends when He bestows His gifts, that they should be received with smiles of gratitude; and when He recalls them, that they should be surrendered with “drops of sacred grief.” Sorrow is an affection implanted by the Creator in the soul for wise and beneficent purposes; and it ought not to be ruthlessly torn up by the roots, but directed in its exercise by reason and piety.
The work of grace, though it is above nature, is not against it. The man who tells me not to weep at the grave, insults me, mocks me and wishes to degrade me! Tears are the silent, pure, sincere testimony of my heart to the excellence of the gift He gave in mercy; and in mercy, no doubt, as well as judgment, He has recalled.
But then, though we mourn, we must not murmur. We may sorrow, but not with the violent and uncontrolled grief of the heathen who have no hope. Our sorrow may flow as deep as we like, but noiseless and still in the channels of submission.
-John Angell James