Death

Death and the Fall

Christians Get to Grieve, Too

A while ago I went to visit a man whose wife had died. It was a cold winter day in Maine as I drove up to the ancient farmhouse overlooking a frozen lake in a largely unknown small town in rural Maine. For anyone reading this who is not from Maine, let me tell you that he fit the quintessential image of a Mainer. He sported a thick white beard and his skin was leathered and toughened by the harsh Maine winters and years of working outside.

As we talked we sat in front of the stove in his kitchen and the air was filled with the unique smell of wood smoke. He was a retired pastor whose wife had died about six months before and I would occasionally drop in to see him. Our continued sporadic visits were as much of a surprise to me as anyone. We shared a common faith in the saving power of Christ, but I suppose that is about it. We disagreed on many theological things and we hail from completely different generations.

As a sort of grief counselor though, I was there to talk with him about his grieving process. I expected our first visit to be our last, but he kept inviting me back. We would discuss many things, but he always came back to the deep ache in his life left by the absence of his wife.

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All Fun and No Funerals Makes Jack a Dumb Boy

Death is an occasion and funeral homes are a place marked by much sadness and grief. And yet, according to Holy Scripture, there is something potentially beneficial about such an occasion and such a place. As the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to a house of feasting” (7:2 NIV). To paraphrase, “Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties” (NLT). Why would the Bible make such an assertion? What is this passage teaching us?

What the Text Isn’t Saying

To begin with, let’s consider what this passage is not teaching:

1. It’s not teaching that life is a drag

The writer of Ecclesiastes is not forbidding or discouraging us from enjoying ourselves at festive occasions. In other words, the text is not teaching that it’s wrong to celebrate and to be happy. Earlier in the book the writer says, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (3:4). Later, he says, “When times are good, be happy” (7:14). According to the New Testament, the Lord Jesus himself celebrated weddings (John 2:1-11) and enjoyed feasts (Matt 11:19). So it’s not necessarily wrong to be to be in “the house of feasting.” God isn’t a cosmic killjoy!

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