I ran across this article from NPR’s All Things Considered called “Always Go To The Funeral.” It’s worth listening to or reading.
As a pastor, I attend a fair number of funerals. Since our congregation is relatively young, these aren’t usually funerals for our church members, but funerals for their loved ones who pass away.
I think going to funerals is important. There are certain moments and events in life that are worth inconveniencing yourself for; honoring the life of a human being is one of them.
A lot of people avoid funerals because death is something that we all feel is a foreign imposition on us – something that is inherently wrong. We are right to feel that way actually; God’s Word makes it clear that we were made to live forever, and that sickness, pain and death are a curse – part of the very curse that Jesus Christ came to set us free from. However, it’s that very reason why it’s a healthy thing for us to attend funerals – to be faced with the ultimate realities that make the hope of the Gospel truly good news.
One thing I’ve realized over the years as a pastor, is that most people aren’t prepared for how to handle those who suffer or grieve. On a recent trip to Hungary I taught a seminar for the church there, whose pastor had recently lost a child, on how to understand grief and how to love and minister to grieving people. This instruction is so helpful, because most people (at least over there) default to either avoiding the situation or saying things which aren’t helpful. In reality, one of the best things you can do for someone who is grieving is not say anything, but just be around – present, available.
Yes, funerals are uncomfortable. Guess who else doesn’t enjoy being at that funeral: the person who lost a loved one. Bless them by being there beside them in their time of loss.