Funerals are scary occasions for many individuals, including for Francis Chan. Although the evangelical preacher and author is "deeply disturbed" at such memorials, he feels they are as necessary for the living as the dead — but not in the way that one may presume.
In an article posted this month for DesiringGod.org, a website focused on glorifying God, Chan urged Christians to " … keep the brevity of life on the forefront of our minds" in order to live prepared for Judgment Day.
"Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom," Chan wrote, quoting Psalms 90:12. The preacher said that pondering death is for the wise and that only fools ignore its inevitability.
Chan began pondering death early in life after the loss of both his step-mother and his father by age 12. But his early thinking about death was more the execption than the norm. Most people try to avoid thoughts or talk of death, according to the pastor.
He wrote, "We are unaccustomed to conversations about death. Our society goes to incredible lengths to hide the inevitable reality of death from us. It is considered intrusive or even rude to ask others to think about their deaths. Inevitably someone will quickly change the subject once it gets too serious or solemn. But should we?"
Ecclesiastes 7:2 says no. Chan quoted the Scripture: "It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart."
The passage explained that it is better to attend a funeral and be reminded of the fragility of life and of one's need to prepare for eternity than to be lulled into oblivion by life's pleasures.
Yet after Christians do attend funerals many immediately go about the business of trying to put the experience behind them, said Chan.
"It's not uncommon to see crowds go out drinking immediately following the service. It is their way to 'move on' and not dwell on the severity of the situation," he wrote.
In an attempt to get right back into the flow of life and regain a sense of normalcy, others may go back to work or engage in some form of entertainment. "People will do anything to avoid thinking about the only thing that matters. Reality is right there before their eyes, but they'll desperately pursue any alternative to facing the facts."
Chan warned against that habit, this time citing Ecclesiastes 7:4: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth."
The pastor interpreted the Scripture, explaining that a wise man doesn't try to quickly "move past" funerals. Rather, "his heart lingers in a state of mourning. The fool tells jokes as soon as the funeral ends, not realizing the damage it does to his soul. Fools do whatever is easiest."
Chan admitted that contemplating one's mortality isn't a pleasant or easy thing to do, but said it "builds us up." He wrote, "Contemplating death takes work; watching a typical movie does not. The wise man makes time to think about serious issues. The hard work of mourning builds up the wisdom of the heart."