Why do we mourn?
One of the things that sets the Bible apart from every other religious book in the world is the way it displays the raw humanity of people. In it’s pages we see rage and sorrow, disappointment and betrayal, bitterness and laughter. In it’s pages we come face to face with so much of our own experience.
In Acts 9:36-43 we find a particularly touching scene. A Christian woman named Tabitha became sick and passed away. Tabitha had an amazing reputation for her kind acts of charity, and when she died all of the widows whom she cared for came and wept over her. When the apostle Peter showed up, these women showed him the clothing Tabitha had made for each of them. And now in her absence, the widows wept.
This story touches on something so universal to the human experience that it’s easy to miss. The women mourned the loss of Tabitha.
Why do we mourn when someone dies? After all, everyone eventually dies. It’s a reality we must all face. And yet every culture the world has ever known mourns when a person’s life ends. Why?
I believe there are at least three reasons we mourn, and I believe these reasons point to something that should give us profound hope.
1. We miss the person.
Despite the persistent claims of a few misguided individuals, most of us are aware that a human being is more than just a random compilation of biological processes. Humans have personality and plans and a sense of purpose. People carry with them a sense of dignity and value that cannot be simply forgotten. So when wonderful Tabitha died (Acts 9:39), the widows wept. This refrain is repeated every time we lose a loved one. We simply cannot accept that the person we valued so much is simply gone. How could their personhood simply vanish?!
2. We instinctively know that death is wrong.
If there was an option for death to be eliminated, there would be no debate. People around the world would resoundingly agree that an end to death would be a good thing. And each of us, in our gut, feels that death is wrong. That’s it’s a corruption against our true design. That it should be lumped together with other terrible things like war and violence, sickness and pain.
3. We wish for something better.
The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and we know this is true. We’re unsatisfied with the brevity of life, and our imaginations are drawn to concepts like immortality.
This is where our mourning encounters hope. The desire for eternal life is not beyond your reach. In the story of Tabitha, Peter knelt and prayed over her, and then something truly astounding happened. She came back to life! In a small foretaste of things to come, death was defeated.
There are a handful of miracles throughout the Bible where God raised the dead, but the most important of these was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that same resurrection is available to every one of us if we will, through faith in Jesus, align ourselves with Him.
The Author of Life will one day eradicate death for those who have submitted to Him. This is the central teaching of Christianity. This is our greatest hope. One day our greatest enemy, death, will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).
When we mourn, it is real and painful. But there is a meaning and purpose behind it. It was meant to point us to our need for a Savior. It was meant to point us to Jesus.