I have wanted to write a book about things NOT to say at a funeral for some time. I have a lot of experience in this area after burying three family members over an 18 month time frame. At the last funeral, I even thought about taking out a notepad to write some of the more memorable words down. It got rather interesting.
I don’t mean to demean anyone who is trying their best to comfort a family in mourning. I was just not prepared for some of the things people said out loud at this time of sorrow. These sweet people meant well but their words of condolence didn’t come out quite right when spoken.
In all honestly, no one wants to hear how the departed golfer is now on the 18th hole in the big course in the sky (actually heard that one) or that your beloved Mom is giving your beloved Dad an earful about how long it took him to get to heaven and join her (yep, heard that one too). Some of these gems are priceless.
But I never said an unkind word to anyone. I understood that they were trying to be of comfort. In truth, there isn’t much you can say at a time of great loss other than “I’m sorry”. This is a sure-fire winner in the condolence department. The loved ones who mourn just want to hear you miss the deceased too and a simple “I’m sorry” becomes sweet soothing words to the sorrowful soul.
Today, I was remembering the death of Lazarus. Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. In short, this family was very important to him. The sisters sent a message to Jesus about Lazarus’s imminent death but Jesus did not return in time to save their brother. When He finally did return, Martha raced to Jesus and said “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) Speaking for myself, I’m not sure this would have been the first words out of my mouth to the Son of God.
But Jesus used this time of mourning to perform one of the last of his major miracles (excluding resurrection) and He asked to go to the tomb. Then, inexplicably, Jesus called for the corpse of Lazarus to come out. And Lazarus rose from his grave and walked to Jesus.
Jesus performed many miracles starting with turning water into wine to raising Lazarus from the dead. This was no trick. This was Jesus and He knew the time was coming when He would have to suffer greatly for the sins of the world before He could rise again into glory.
For this – I have had no words.