It should be said at the outset that mourning is a natural reaction to the death of a loved one or friend. Regarding a definite “time frame for mourning”; there was a certain “period for mourning” in Bible days but it differed according to the country and its culture. When Jacob died, we read that “Joseph fell on his father’s face, and wept over him, and kissed him….and THE EGYPTIANS MOURNED FOR HIM SEVENTY DAYS. And when the days of his mourning was past…Joseph went up to bury his father…and they mourned there with a very great lamentation. HE OBSERVED SEVEN DAYS OF MOURNING FOR HIS FATHER” (Genesis 50:1, 3, 4, 7, & 10…NKJV). This “public period of mourning” differs just as much today in different countries and there are many factors that determine how long the mourning period is.

One thing is certain, mourning is natural and it begins immediately after death. We read in Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and THE DAY OF DEATH than the day of one’s birth; Better to go to THE HOUSE OF MOURNING than to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. SORROW is better than laughter, for by a SAD COUNTENANCE the heart is made better. THE HEART OF THE WISE IS IN THE HOUSE OF THE MOURNING, but the heart of the fools is in the house of mirth.” These words speak of the “solemnity of death” and how it is a time of “serious reflection,” not just for the one who has departed this life but for the one who will one day follow that person in death. We know that “death is the end of all men” (with one exception…see 1st Corinthians 15:51-54) and we do well to consider its reality and be prepared for “the day of our death.” In light of this truth, it is sad to see how man is trying to avoid this reality. I have been to funerals where instead of a “house of mourning” there is a “house of feasting and mirth.” During one funeral the preacher told jokes throughout his message which resulted in laughter throughout, and the funeral was followed by a large feast and the laughter continued along with alcoholic beverages that contributed to the merry-making. They called the whole event “the celebration of life” and thus they lost sight of “the solemnity of death.” Again, mankind is doing everything he can to avoid thinking of death; in many funeral homes they have exchanged the “black hearse” with a “white hearse” and instead of calling the burial place a “cemetery” they call it a “Memorial Garden.” Any word or image that reminds them of their inevitable “appointment with death” is being discarded and replaced with something that leaves their conscience undisturbed. These things would fall into the category of “what we shouldn’t do during mourning time.”

It should be said that the “private mourning period” is going to vary from one person to another and the “way one mourns” will also differ. Though all should mourn, we know from Scripture that a believer in Jesus Christ will NOT mourn for a fellow-believer who has died in the same way that an unbeliever will mourn. The Apostle Paul wrote the following words of comfort to the believers at Thessalonica who were mourning the loss of believers who had died: “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have FALLEN ASLEEP (died), lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1st Thessalonians 4:13-14). He then went on in verses 15-17 to reveal to them the truth of the coming of the Lord Jesus to rapture to glory all believers and to raise the bodies of all who had died believing in Him as their savior. Because of this truth, which taught them that THEY WILL SEE THEIR LOVED ONES AGAIN, Paul ends by saying, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (verse 18). When a believer stands at the graveside of a fellow-believer there will be sorrow and grief, but there will also be comfort because of these assuring words. They also know, from 2nd Corinthians 5:8, that their departed love one is “absent from the body, and at home with the Lord” (see also Philippians 1:21-23). These truths will lessen the mourning process and thus the believer does NOT “sorrow as others who have no hope.”

I will end by another word of comfort to fellow-believers in Christ. As we do mourn the loss of a loved one and friend, we also have the blessed truth that the Lord Jesus sympathizes with us in our time of mourning. He stood with Mary and Martha as they mourned the loss of their brother Lazarus (see John 11:17-35) and He will be with us as we mourn our loved ones. He knows that this is one of the greatest trials in life. But Scripture gives us the following assurance: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot SYMPATHIZE WITH OUR WEAKNESSES, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). May every believer who is going through the mourning process lay hold of this precious truth and apply it by going to our Great High Priest in prayer. As we come before Him in our weakness and cry out to Him, we will indeed “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” He is there for us, with a perfect Human Heart that is beating towards us; we need only reach out to Him and He will draw nigh to us and “sympathize with us in our weaknesses.” (477.1)  (DO)