Some of the hardest yet most inspiring times of worship occur during funerals. The raw emotions of sadness and loss are mixed with a sense of hope and eternal perspective.
The book of Ecclesiastes says, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart” (7:2 NIV).
In our fast-paced culture, funerals give us the rare occasion to reflect on the brevity of life and how each of our days are numbered. There is a sense of “coming to terms” with reality that our life on this earth will end. As Christians we find assurance in the promise of God’s Word that Jesus Christ did indeed die for the remission of our sins and rose again with the invitation to live forever through Him and with Him.
Songs of worship can be the most encouraging aspect of a funeral service or a time of intense grief. Part of my role as a worship pastor is to show up and “pastor” those who are grieving. Several times last year I was called upon to lead worship during memorial or graveside services. Silence can be powerful. Stillness consoling. Yet when a simple chorus or hymn begins with a guitar or human voice, you can feel something change in the air. Timely words sung at the right moment can bring a wave of comfort and release His faithful presence.
“Blessed be Your name when the road’s marked with suffering, when there’s pain in the offering, blessed be Your name.” “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see you.” “I can only imagine …..I will rise when He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain.” These are just a few of the songs that have served the moment and brought hope to those who have lost loved ones.
Sometimes we aren’t sure how to bring comfort in situations where someone is fighting an illness or recovering in some way. Often my wife and I have gone to someone’s bedside in the hospital or at their home and simply sang over them. With sensitivity to the moment, we pray for them and ask if they mind if we sing quietly and worship in their room. Some of my most profound moments with God have been during these times as tears flow and faith is released in prayer and song.
Scripture is filled with passages that exemplify praise in the midst of pain, promises of joy as we walk through profound sorrow.
“Why are you so downcast, oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God,” (Ps 42:5-6a).
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me … my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps 23).
Shortly before a crazed gunman murdered her, Virginia Tech student Lauren McCain wrote in her diary, “Show me Your purpose for me at Tech, and on this earth. But, if You choose not to, I will still praise you and walk where You lead, not because I am selfless, or holy, or determined to sacrifice myself for what is right but because You are the delight of my heart; and I cannot live without You.”
Lord, give us all that same heart as we seek to console others in their time of mourning. For one day we will wish for someone to sing over us and help us to worship in the midst of our sorrow.
This article appeared in Worship Leader Magazine.
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Some of the hardest yet most inspiring times of worship occur during funerals. The raw emotions of sadness and loss are mixed with a sense of hope and eternal perspective...