In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the main character processes his grief over the loss of a friend by remembering something his mother had told him, “Death is just a part of life.” In a sense that is true. All of us are, in the words of Hebrews, “destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27). But death is not a natural part of the world God created. It came into the world because of the Fall. In this deeper sense, death is an enemy and an intruder. One of the reasons Christ came was to defeat death (1 Cor. 15:26). The grief we feel at the death of a loved one is a recognition that this is not the way things are supposed to be.
Upon hearing of Saul’s and Jonathan’s death, David crafts a lament to express his grief. He also encourages the whole community to learn this lament as an appropriate way to grieve the loss of their king (2 Sam. 1:18). David does not hide from the reality of death or the loss that it creates.
Three times in this haunting poem, David declares, “How the mighty have fallen!” (vv. 19, 25, 27). This is both a reminder of Saul’s prowess in battle as well as his judgment. David abhors the thought that Saul’s death would be celebrated by the Philistines (v. 20). Their celebration would compound the loss felt by the nation.
David especially laments the death of his friend Jonathan. They had a close and deep friendship. Even though Jonathan was the crown prince, he was willing to give the crown to David. He recognized God’s unique calling on David’s life. Yet, he also remained loyal to his father and died at his side (v. 23). David could hardly contain his grief (v. 26).
>> Grief and lament are appropriate responses to death. We do not need to live in denial. Even as we grieve, we know that we can put our hope in what Christ has done to defeat death. As Jesus reminded His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We know from Jesus’ example that grief is a natural response to tragedy. But that doesn’t make it any easier to experience. Lord, as we lament the losses we have endured, remind us that You grieve with us.