God called his people not to grieve like the pagan nations around them when they lost loved ones. Other nations would mutilate themselves. Maxwell observes that it still happens today. “In New Guinea, a mourner, especially a woman, will remove a tip of a finger up to the first joint, and in extreme cases, more than one finger joint. Such practices were forbidden in Israel because they hinted at conformity to pagan practices.”

When God’s people lost loved ones their response should be different.  Paul wrote to the church of Thessalonica giving them timely words about the Christian’s reaction to death. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus …. Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:13–14, 18).

I like what E. Stanley Jones said:  “Death is the anesthetic God uses while His children pass from one life to another.” D. L. Moody, in discussing his own death with a friend, said, “One day you’ll see in the paper: ‘Moody is dead!’ Don’t you believe it! I’ll be more alive than ever.” C. H. Spurgeon tells of a child who once found some beautiful eggs in a nest. A week later he visited the nest again, only to return home crying, “Mother, I had some beautiful eggs in this nest and now they’re destroyed! There’s nothing left but a few pieces of broken shell!” His mother’s reply was comforting, “The eggs weren’t destroyed. There were little birds inside those eggs and they’ve flown away and are singing in the branches of the trees.” “And,” said Spurgeon, “So it is that when we look at our departed loved ones we are apt to say, ‘Is this all you have left us, ruthless spoiler?’ But faith whispers, ‘No, the shell is broken, but among the birds of paradise, singing, you shall find the spirits of your beloved ones…”

I guess that’s why Paul can say, “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”