The Art of Mourning

SDA JournalDevotional


Scripture: (Deu 14:1-2 NKJV)  “You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead. {2} “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

Observation: The other nations had peculiar and superstitious beliefs about dying and the dead. Some even worshiped dead spirits. The precise significance of the rituals mentioned here (Deut. 14:1)—laceration and shaving the head for the dead—is unknown today. But cutting oneself was a sign of mourning (cf. Jer. 16:6; 41:5; 47:5; 48:37).  However, it is clear that these practices reflected beliefs about the dead that conflicted with faith in the Lord, the ultimate Source of life. Therefore when a loved one died, the Israelites were to demonstrate their faith in the Lord by refraining from these pagan practices. Today Christians may demonstrate even greater faith when a believing loved one dies (cf. 1 Thes. 4:13-18).

Application: I think mourning is more an art than a science; and yet, many want to deal with it as a science, allowing only a certain amount of time for the person to be done with it, or a disease that needs to be treated with medication.  While we need to make provision for cultural differences, what I do know is that we need to mourn in a healthy way.
     During my years as a hospice chaplain I witnessed the death of all my patients and saw how their loved ones mourned and learned more of the importance of appropriate mourning.  One thing I always tell people is to not medicate themselves or their loved ones as that will delay or interrupt the healing process which mourning provides.  Among those who use alcohol I also recommend they stay away from it at least for four weeks so they can grieve appropriately and not artificially.
     We can say definitely that hurting oneself is not appropriate.  As we read above, God did not want His people to follow the customs of the people around them by cutting themselves.  There are many other and better ways to mourn appropriately such as talking to others about their loved one, journaling their experience, invest time to help others, and many more.  When a loved one dies of a terminal disease, many times their loved ones get involved in causes that raise funds for research and treatment of the same in order to benefit others suffering from the same.  Look for positive ways to manage your grief.

A Prayer You May Say: Father, when the loss of a loved one touches us, help us to know how to mourn them appropriately and in a healthy way.

Used by permission of Adventist Family Ministries, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.



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