The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is It Wrong to Mourn?
“MOREOVER, BROTHERS, WE DO NOT WANT YOU TO BE IGNORANT CONCERNING THOSE WHO ARE SLEEPING IN DEATH; THAT YOU MAY NOT SORROW JUST AS THE REST ALSO DO WHO HAVE NO HOPE.”—1 THESSALONIANS 4:13.
THE Bible holds out a hope for those who have died. The resurrections performed by Jesus, as well as his teachings, point to a time when the dead will be brought back to life. (Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 5:35, 36, 41, 42; Luke 7:12-16) How should this hope affect us? The apostle Paul’s words quoted above indicate that this hope can prove comforting when a loved one dies.
If you have lost a loved one in death, you have no doubt felt the emotional pain that accompanies such a tragedy. Theresa, whose husband of 42 years died shortly after heart surgery, states: “It was such a shock! My first feeling was absolute fright. Then came the tremendous pain that grew worse as time went on. I cried a lot.” Do such reactions indicate a lack of faith in Jehovah’s promise to resurrect the dead? Do Paul’s words mean that it is wrong to mourn?
Examples of Mourning in the Bible
We find the answer to those questions by examining examples of mourning in the Bible. In many accounts the death of an immediate family member was accompanied by a period of mourning. (Genesis 27:41; 50:7-10; Psalm 35:14) The feelings associated with this mourning were often very intense.
Consider how some men of faith mourned over the death of a loved one. Abraham, for example, had strong faith that God could resurrect the dead. (Hebrews 11:19) Even with this conviction, when his wife died, he “came in to bewail Sarah and to weep over her.” (Genesis 23:1, 2) When Jacob’s sons lied and told him that his beloved son Joseph had died, Jacob “ripped his mantles apart and . . . continued weeping for him.” (Genesis 37:34, 35) Why, many years later the thought of his dear son’s death still weighed heavily upon Jacob! (Genesis 42:36-38) King David too grieved openly and intensely over the deaths of his two sons Amnon and Absalom. Although both of them had caused distress to David and his family, they were still his sons, and their deaths brought him much sorrow.—2 Samuel 13:28-39; 18:33.
At times, the whole Israelite nation mourned, as they did over the death of Moses. Deuteronomy 34:8 tells us that the Israelites wept for him for 30 days.
Finally, there is the example of Jesus Christ. His close friend Lazarus died. And when Jesus saw how Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary, and their friends were weeping, he “groaned in the spirit and became troubled.” Though he knew that in a few moments he would bring his friend back to life, he still “gave way to tears.” Jesus loved his dear friends Martha and Mary. So he was deeply moved when he saw their distress over their brother’s death.—John 11:33-36.
Abraham, Jacob, David, and Jesus all exercised great faith in Jehovah and his promises, yet they grieved. Was their mourning a sign of spiritual weakness? Was their grief an indication of a lack of faith in the resurrection? Absolutely not! Mourning is a normal reaction to the death of a loved one.
Why We Mourn
It was never God’s purpose for mankind to die. Jehovah’s original purpose, as expressed to Adam and Eve, was for the earth to be transformed into a beautiful paradise filled with a loving, happy family. Death would come only if that first couple chose to disobey Jehovah. (Genesis 1:28; 2:17) Sadly, Adam and Eve did disobey, and because of disobedience, “death spread to all men.” (Romans 5:12; 6:23) Death is thus a cruel enemy that was never meant to be.—1 Corinthians 15:26.
It is only reasonable, then, that the unnatural event of the death of someone close sparks deep emotional pain for those it touches. It creates an enormous vacuum in their life. Theresa, the widow mentioned above, stated with regard to her husband: “I am sure that I will see him again in the resurrection, but I miss him so much now. That is what really hurts.” The death of a parent may remind us of our own mortality. The death of a young person particularly pains us because of the tragedy of a life not fully lived.—Isaiah 38:10.
Yes, death is unnatural. The pain that it spawns is to be expected, and Jehovah does not view mourning as a lack of faith in the resurrection. As seen by the examples of Abraham, Jacob, David, the Israelite nation, and Jesus, outwardly expressing our pain of heart is no indication that we are lacking spiritually.*
Nevertheless, while we as Christians certainly do grieve because of death, we do not sorrow “as the rest also do who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13) We do not indulge in unreasonable extremes of grieving because we are not confused as to the condition of the dead. We know that they are not in pain or distress but in a condition like a deep, peaceful sleep. (Ecclesiastes 9:5; Mark 5:39; John 11:11-14) We also have full confidence that Jesus, “the resurrection and the life,” will act on his promise to bring back “all those in the memorial tombs.”—John 5:28, 29; 11:24, 25.
Therefore, if you are grieving at this time, take comfort from the knowledge that Jehovah understands your pain. May this knowledge and your hope in the resurrection temper your grief and help you to cope with your loss.
For help in coping with grief, see pages 14-19 of the brochure When Someone You Love Dies, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.