We Mourn Departed Friends

Mrs W., a fine Christian who attended the chapel at Clapham and who farmed in the Dales, was called home to be with the Lord last week. I found out yesterday morning, and was much aggrieved. Left behind is a husband and three young-adult children. She was a real encouragement to me, and I was not an infrequent recipient of her farmhouse hospitality. She was useful to the Lord and a real blessing to her local church. According to my feeble human wisdom, she should have been given another three decades; according to God’s perfect plan, her home-call was perfectly punctual.

God’s ways are above our ways, and we must trust that He does right even when it appears otherwise; yet I have often been struck by the observation that the best Christians seem to go to heaven sooner, and the rest of us, whose service is lacklustre and whose commitment imperfect, are given many years’ of longevity. Those departed saints have certainly fulfilled their allocation of the Lord’s work; their labours are done, their heavenly rewards await. We who remain are spared death and given additional tenure that we might acceptably discharge our quota, too.

Much as I shall miss Mrs W., and dare not even imagine the pain suffered by her family, I can categorically state that she has never been better, happier or more blessed. She gazes now upon the mesmerisingly beautiful Saviour who redeemed her, loved her and embraced her. The saint’s passing may be painful, but it is still exceedingly precious.

Why do we mourn departed friends,

Or shake at death’s alarms?

’Tis but the voice that Jesus sends,

To call them to his arms.


Are we not tending upward too,

As fast as time can move?

Nor should we wish the hours more slow,

To keep us from our love.


Why should we tremble to convey

Their bodies to the tomb?

There the dear flesh of Jesus lay,

And left a long perfume.


The graves of all his saints he blessed,

And softened every bed;

Where should the dying members rest,

But with their dying Head?


Thence he arose, ascending high,

And showed our feet the way;

Up to the Lord our flesh shall fly,

At the great rising day.


Then let the last loud trumpet sound,

And bid our kindred rise;

Awake, ye nations under ground;

Ye saints, ascend the skies.


-I. Watts, No 466 in Gadsby’s Hymns