“You are the children of the Lord your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead.”
Among many of the pagan cultures, it was a common practice to cut yourself as a sign of mourning for the loss of a loved one. This practice served to show others the deep sorrow you were experiencing, as a result of your loss. Moses makes it clear, the children of God are NOT to follow this custom. The reason behind this command was that the child of God is not to mourn like the heathen mourn. Years later, Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Greece, who were dealing with the difficulty of death. He said,
” 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.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
The hope Paul speaks of is twofold. First, it refers to the fact that those who have died in Christ are in glory, experiencing the wonders of heaven, and intimate fellowship with Christ. This hope of heaven includes the promise that we will one day be with them again. Second, this hope refers to the comfort, peace, healing, restoration and strength Christ will give to us in our time of sorrow. One of the great benefits of being in a relationship with Jesus is, He promises to give us peace that will outlast the storms of life. He said,
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
Mourning is a natural part of loosing someone we love, but it is possible to loose sight of the hope we have in Christ, and mourn in an unhealthy way. In the book of Genesis, when Jacob died, the people mourned for him. He was the Patriarch of the family, and all Israel was deeply grieved. It was the practice of Egypt to mourn for seventy days, but Joseph decided the people of Israel would mourn for seven days. The Egyptians mourned because they would never see their loved ones again, Israel mourned because they would miss them until they met again in glory.
It is completely understandable if you are suffering from the loss of someone you love, but it can become unhealthy if you refuse the comfort God supplies, and continue in a state of mourning indefinitely. If you are struggling with this, it is time to cling to Christ and allow him to turn your mourning into dancing (Psalm 30:11).
It is not disrespectful to the dead, if you move on from mourning, but to remain there is unhealthy for you.