Recently, I attended a funeral service where a speaker got up and said: “This is not a time to be sad or a time to cry, but rather a time to rejoice! This is a time to celebrate!” Now, I know their intention was to uplift the mourners and to encourage us to praise and worship God. And just like everybody else, after he said it, I said “Amen!” But later on, I started to do some thinking. We were at a funeral, but the speaker said it was not the time or the place to cry! Well, why not? Someone had died and we all were suffering from the loss of their company; why not cry? We were at a funeral! What better time and place is there to cry and be sad than at a funeral?
One of the trends in much of the preaching and teaching of today is the tendency to say or to imply that one should be happy ALL of the time! From what I am hearing, it seems as if there is no legitimate place for pain and sorrow in life and if a person does experience pain and sorrow it is an indication that something is amiss with their faith. I would like to suggest that such preaching and teaching is not only unrealistic, it is also unbiblical! It is unrealistic because it is a denial of reality to expect people not to cry when they have suffered a loss! Crying is part of the human emotional make-up! As Betty Everett used to sing back in the day: “The rich have to cry! The poor have to cry! You’ll have to cry and I’ll have to cry!” The funny thing about it is that many times the very people who are always telling others not to cry will often try to jump in the casket when one of their loved-one dies! I think we should quit trying to get people to suppress their expressions of bereavement, but rather “allow” them to mourn, allow them to grieve and grant them the freedom to cry! After all, it was their momma, their daddy, their son, or their daughter who died, not ours! And if grief is not expressed at the funeral, it will be expressed at some other time and in some other form that is usually not productive or healthy.
Not only is it unrealistic, it is also unbiblical to deny them or us the freedom to express grief, bereavement and sorrow because the Bible says: “There is . . . a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” (Ecc 3:4 KJV) So if the funeral is not the time or place to cry then when and where is it? One of the first Bible verses I ever learned as a child was John 11:35. It is the shortest verse in the Bible. It says: “Jesus wept.” Ironically, I learned this verse as a saying for grace over meals. I still haven’t figured out what Jesus crying had to do with me eating! But when we look at this verse in context, we discover that Jesus cried at the grave of Lazarus, his friend. Now, I’m not going into the theological discussion as to why he cried, I just want to point out the fact that Jesus was at a funeral and he cried! Now, if Jesus cried at a funeral, what’s wrong with us crying at a funeral? Paul wrote, in I Thessalonians 4:13, that we are not to grieve as others who have no hope. He didn’t say that we are not to grieve; he said we are not to grieve as others who have no hope!
So the next time you are grieving over the loss of a loved-one and someone tells you at the funeral not to cry or that you shouldn’t cry; don’t listen to them! Crying is a normal and natural expression of grief and loss! If it doesn’t come out that way, which is normal, it will come out another way that is abnormal and unhealthy! And if you feel like you must give them a reply, just tell them in the words of an old song I heard some time ago: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!”
I have a major problem with the Christian sentiments that sometimes are communicated regarding death and grief and the “rejoice always” type of Bible verses that are erroneously applied to grieving the loss of a loved one. The “not time to cry, time to celebrate” philosophy is just plain wrong. It puts unrealistic expectations not only on the bereaved, but also on those surrounding the bereaved. The bereaved are meant to feel like they have to buck up and smile. Those surrounding the bereaved expect them to move on and begin rejoicing. Are we not allowed to miss our dearly loved ones?? Does it not take a long time to weave the loss into the fabric of our lives?? YES!! Yes, to both questions!! It is unhealthy, both physically and spiritually, for all involved to be told not to cry, but rather rejoice over the death of a loved one. There is so much more we can do for the bereaved in being the hands and feet of God on this earth and supporting those who are grieving in tangible, caring ways.
Thank you Rebecca! That’s my point exactly!I too have a major problem with people, preaching, and teaching that attempt to make the grieving feel guilty for grieving! Crying is not a sign of a lack of faith, it is a sign of being truly alive and human! Thank you so much for your insightful comments.
Yes, crying is normal and cleansing. I am a grief volunteer at a facility in Michigan. Sometimes people cry. Sometimes they don’t. All across the board, though, their feelings and reactions are acknowledged. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your insights and for the work you do.