You’re watching a movie, and there’s going to be a funeral scene. What song do you hear? If it isn’t a military funeral (where “Taps” would be played), you are as likely to hear “Amazing Grace” as you are any other song. Because of this close association, I heard one sister in Christ say before a funeral that they were glad the song wasn’t going to be sung because of how slow and sad the song is.
Let me be blunt at this point: if you think that “Amazing Grace” is a sad song, you haven’t given more than five seconds thought to the words being sung. It is difficult to get past the first line, let alone all four to six verses (depending upon your hymnal) and think of this as a sad song. Let’s take a look.
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
The first two words convey John Newton’s general sentiment throughout the song. Newton is marveling, absolutely awed, at the thought of God’s grace and what it can do. Newton, much like Paul, had a “chief of sinners” attitude. Newton was heavily involved in the slave trade and even captained a slave ship. The thought that God could save “a wretch like him” after all that he had done boggled the mind.
God’s grace truly is amazing. No matter how or how much we’ve sinned, God’s grace is sufficient for—even greater than, to borrow from another song—our sins. We might be completely lost and caught up in the world, but God’s grace reaches us (to borrow from yet another song).
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
The fact that God’s grace exists should convey to us the seriousness of our sin. Grace is God providing what we cannot. We cannot overcome sin ourselves. This should terrify us because of the consequence of sin: death (Romans 6:23). Just as the existence of life preservers on the side of a boat should make us cognizant of the danger of going overboard, the existence of God’s grace should make us fearful of the danger of being lost in sin.
Fortunately, God’s grace can relieve those fears just as well as it can raise them. The fact that God’s grace exists to rescue us from that sin—that God is willing and eager to do so—should be a great comfort.
Of course, that grace is only able to truly relieve our fears when we’ve taken advantage of it. If I have fallen overboard, there’s a limited comfort in those life preservers being on the boat. I know that salvation from the sea is possible, but there’s still the danger of drowning if I don’t come into contact with one. Even when the preserver is thrown out, I can only truly be comfortable when I’ve taken hold of it in such a way that I cannot be removed from it until I’m safely back on board.
And how precious that preserver is. When you obeyed the gospel, how did you feel about things? Hopefully, at the moment you came up out of the water, the salvation you received was the most valuable thing that had ever been given to you. Do you still have that feeling? If not, you may want to look into that.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
Our faith should grow stronger the longer we follow after God. While at “the hour we first believed,” our faith was based on God’s promise and being able to see God’s faithfulness in His word, we should be able to base our faith in God and His grace from our own personal experience with His faithfulness. We should see His providential care at work. We should be acquainted with Him providing the way of escape from temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). Once we have “tasted the kindness of the Lord,” we should “grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2-3). We’ve seen God lead us through temptations, troubles, and the trials of Satan so far, we should be confident that He will continue to do so to lead us to heaven.
The Lord has promised good to me;
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
God doesn’t promise that we will have riches and pleasure and all the things that the world offers, but He has promised that we will have all that we need if we seek Him first (Matthew 6:33). His providence has ensured that when we follow His will, we will be able to accomplish all that He expects of us. We know that God’s promise is certain (2 Peter 3:9). We should therefore rely on Him throughout our days.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
The comfort to the Christian is that there is more to life than just this life. Paul talked about the promise we have at the end of our life. He said in 2 Corinthians 5:1, “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” A Christian should never have to fear death. Certainly, we might desire a little more time to see some things through, but ultimately we should be ready to pass beyond the veil. Paul would go on to say in verse 2, “For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” No matter how much pain and strife and grief and sorrow we endure in this life, we know that we shall have peace when we can be with God.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.
It’s all about God. Because God has extended His grace to us, we will have the opportunity and the blessing to be in His presence for eternity. Speaking of amazing things, I’m amazed by all the people who can’t wait for the worship assembly to be over. If we can’t take being together for an hour at a time to worship our Creator, how do we plan to survive an eternity of it? This is what we should be looking forward to!
There is not a single word in this song that is sad. This song describes the triumphant life of one who has relied fully on God’s grace. It describes the blessing of God’s grace to the believer. That is why this song is appropriate for funerals. Unfortunately, we’ve grown accustomed to singing it in the slow, stately manner of a funeral dirge. While it should be sung reverently (as all hymns should), it should be sung joyfully—joyfully for the departed saint who is now “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8), and joyfully for our hope to follow them—all because of God’s “Amazing Grace.”