(We’ve been celebrating David Faust’s 25th anniversary of writing weekly columns by sharing a few of his favorites. This is the final classic column in that series.)
DAVE INTRODUCES THIS COLUMN FROM NOV. 9, 2003: “Most of us would rather go to a party than to a funeral home. It’s counter-intuitive to read in Ecclesiastes 7:2, ‘It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.’ As we walk on this earth, the ground slopes firmly and unalterably toward the grave. That’s why the older I get, the more I appreciate Jesus’ resurrection. It’s the supreme miracle, the core of our faith, a unifying theme of the Bible, the motivating message of the church, and the reason for our hope. Christ endured the cross, but even then, there was ‘joy set before him’ (Hebrews 12:2). Because he defeated death, there is joy ahead for us, too.“
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By David Faust
I HOPE PEOPLE laugh at my funeral. Don’t get me wrong. I know the serious side of grief. I’ve attended more funerals than I can count, and I’ve officiated at quite a few. I’ve felt the pain of loss that comes when there’s nothing left to do but say “goodbye.” When my friends and relatives gather to mourn my passing, I hope they shed some tears. It would be a shame if no one missed me.
But I hope they laugh, too. Smiles, chuckles, and belly laughs will be welcome. I hope they tell stories about funny things we did together and jokes we enjoyed. I hope my children recount pleasant memories about the way we tossed the ball together in the backyard and wrestled on the family room floor. Maybe they’ll laugh about my cooking and recall how they groaned when I served my dreaded “Daddy casseroles.” Or my daughter will tell about the time I baked her a birthday cake that resembled a one-inch slab of strawberry-flavored shoe leather.
Most of all, I hope someone preaches the gospel at my funeral. I hope the preacher tells how Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. I hope the service reminds the gathered mourners that in Christ we do not grieve like those “who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). I hope the preacher mentions Jesus’ reassuring promise, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25, 26). I want those who attend my funeral to know I really believed this, and that they can believe it too.
I want them to understand that, for those who belong to Christ, death doesn’t mean leaving the fun behind. It means the fun has just begun—and the wonder, the blessedness, the joy of being “away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). For Christians, death means relocation, not termination—it’s a change of address marking our move to a far better place.
Dwight L. Moody quipped that Jesus broke up every funeral he ever attended by raising the dead. I hope the people who attend my funeral realize that Jesus will do the same for me, and for all of us “who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). It’s just a matter of being patient till “the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more.”
Now, I admit, “fun” probably isn’t the right word to describe the blissful joys of Heaven. To most of us, fun means something shallow and fleeting—a good time that doesn’t last. That’s why it’s foolish to make personal pleasure our main goal in life. When will we learn that “the world and its desires pass away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:17)? When will we learn that the purpose of life is not merely to store up treasures on earth that quickly fade away?
There’s a lot I don’t know about Heaven, but I know the Lord is there. I know spectacular light and color and beauty and worship are there. And I know what’s not there: no frightening darkness, no tears, no death, no mourning or crying or pain. Sorry if the word offends you, but that sounds fun to me!
Years ago, after publishing an article about the humor of Christ, I received a letter of rebuke from a Christian brother who insisted that Jesus never laughed or smiled. I phoned the letter-writer and spent about a half-hour trying to show him that, since Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21), it’s highly probable that the Lord occasionally expressed joy on his face. I didn’t convince my critical friend, but ironically, whenever I think about our conversation, it makes me smile!
Jesus spoke about joy in Heaven. He said there is joy “in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Joy in the presence of the angels? That makes me wonder if the Lord himself joins their rejoicing. I think he does.
So I hope there’s rejoicing at my funeral—rejoicing that celebrates another forgiven sinner’s graduation to glory. I hope my loved ones who say “goodbye” understand we’ll see each other again someday around the throne of God. When they think about their own graduation to glory, I hope they smile.
I’m sure that somewhere I’ll be smiling too.