Funeral songs have comforted loved ones ever since biblical times. The Christian songs shared below offer both classic and modern versions that continue to offer peace, reflection, and joy, even centuries later.
A friend of my husband planned his own celebration of life, giving special thought to the funeral songs after his options for cancer treatments ended. He requested two songs for the service. One was slow, melodic, and full of heavenly hope. The other revealed his lightheartedness. Lighthearted because he was confident of his destination. I suspect his hope was to put smiles on the faces of his loved ones when the song “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones played as his casket rolled down the aisle. While that song wouldn’t be my choice, it proves the point that funerals reflect a person’s life and wishes.
“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’re-fraught heart, and bids it break.” — William Shakespeare, Macbeth
5 Classic Christian Funeral Songs
“Truth put to music remains with us. It’s why we still sing the powerful lyrics of hymns written centuries ago. Speculation and questioning about theology will come and go, but truth remains.” — Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition
1. Amazing Grace
John Newton not only ran from Christ for much of his life, but he also tried to discourage others from their faith before his conversion. During this same time, he experienced several near-death situations, which would later influence these lyrics in Amazing Grace:
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home
Those harrowing experiences seemed to draw him closer to the idea of God’s providential care, but he would return to his unbelief. His first step toward Christianity, however, happened on a ship when God miraculously spared his life once again. The combination of this realization, his admittance to feeling helpless, and recalling words from Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ, all played a part in the lyrics “the hour I first believed”, and more importantly, his salvation. Although John Newton penned the poem Amazing Grace in 1772, it would be 60 years before it was set to music.
2. I’ll Fly Away
Albert Brumley wrote this glorious hymn in 1929. Its upbeat melody and hope-filled words about a land where joy shall never end make it one of the most beloved hymns ever recorded.
3. It Is Well with My Soul
As with many of the most moving songs, the origin of this hymn was birthed from great loss in Horatio Spafford’s life. He lost his only son to Scarlet Fever and four young daughters in a shipwreck. It is believed that the lyrics “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul” were written while traveling over the exact place where his daughters’ ship sank.
4. What a Day that Will Be
Jim Hill was a shoe salesman, but music was his first love. He led the choir in his church, sang in a quartet, and recorded many gospel songs. The inspiration for this well-loved hymn was his mother-in-law, who at a young age, had a “debilitating” stroke. One day, while driving home from work, he gave thought to Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He meditated on the glorious day that soon awaited his mother-in-law and wrote the lyrics to What a Day That Will Be on a piece of cardboard when he got home. Jim had the opportunity to sing it for her before her death.
5. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
It’s believed that Wallace Willis, a freed slave, wrote this song to celebrate the Underground Railway after the Civil War. The song is steeped in history and is believed to have been a slave song. But it’s also had its share of controversy over the years. The Nazis put this song on an “undesired and harmful” song list, and in 2020, Black Lives Matter attempted to have it banned from being sung during England’s rugby games. The rich metaphoric lyrics lend themselves to the idea of a chariot being a means of escape. Some feel it’s an escape from the fallen world to heaven, while others believe the original meaning leans more toward escaping for one’s freedom. Either way, it is a song that’s been sung at numerous funerals, offering the joyous hope that is ours as believers.
5 Modern Christian Funeral Songs
“The death of a member of Christ’s body is a call to God’s people. It is a call to come together, to gather, to remember, and to be sent forth with renewed faith-despite the seeming tragedy of death.”— John Allyn Melloh
1. In Christ Alone
Songwriters Stuart Townend and Keith Getty set out to write a song about the attributes of God and the power of the gospel through the atoning work of Christ. One of the most popular videos for this song is sung by a young woman, Christina Grimmie, who was shot and killed by a fan soon after it was recorded, making her soulful rendition especially moving.
2. Jesus Promised Me a Home Over There
The lyricist for this hymn is Warryn Campbell but it gained popularity when Grammy award-winning singer Jennifer Hudson recorded it. The lyrics remind listeners of Jesus’ words in John 14:2: “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”
3. I Can Only Imagine
Granted, this song by MercyMe may have been overplayed by radio stations for years after its release, but it’s hard to dispute the beautiful imagery and comfort the lyrics continue to bring to loved ones navigating their grief.
4. Because He Lives
Together, Bill and Gloria Gaither have written hundreds of songs. While expecting their third child, the world’s turmoil created a lot of anxiety for the couple. By the time the baby was born, God had filled them with unspeakable peace, reminding them that because He lives, they can trust and rest in His sovereignty.
5. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)
Producers of the film Amazing Grace (2007) approached Chris Tomlin to see if he’d be willing to lend his musical talent to the film. While considering the offer, he read more about the background of John Newton, the songwriter of the original hymn, particularly as it related to slavery. After reading how his conversion radically changed his views on the subject, Chris wrote the lyrics for the movie. While his new version of the song Amazing Grace was written for the movie, many Christians embraced it in their churches.
A Final Thought on Funerals
“Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first, but at the same time, it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Kayla James
Cathy Baker is the author of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach and Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Mountains. She writes from a tiny studio lovingly known as The Tiny House on the Hill in the Foothills of SC. As an author, Hope Writer, and Bible teacher for over twenty-five years, she encourages women to pause and embrace the seemingly small, mundane moments of their day for God’s glory. She invites you to join her in the tiny house where you’re always welcome to come in and take a seat.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
So when sin is not being confronted, or even viewed as sin at all, it’s time to address it with the hope of gently helping to restore believers caught in its web. Here are 10 sins that often go overlooked in Christian community.
Stock Footage & Music Courtesy of Soundstripe.com Thumbnail by Getty Images