I know we are supposed to be all about joy, but the problem is, life isn’t always that great. We are dealt hard blows at difficult times and spend years recovering. In those difficult times, those times when the world seems to be against us and we are grieving some important loss, I have one question: How does God respond?
I think that we see his response in the shortest verse of the Bible in John 11:35: “Jesus Wept.” Besides being an easy way to get a piece of candy for memorizing a Bible verse in Sunday School, this verse reveals some of the most profound truth about how God acts in our world.
To understand that verse, we have to understand the story that sets it up. Jesus is in another town a couple days journey away from his friend Lazarus’ hometown when Jesus gets the news that Lazarus is dangerously sick. Jesus’ response is one of gladness because he says that this will be something that God will use to increase the faith of the disciples which is kind of weird, but he’s God so… we’ll give him a quirky creator pass.
Let me say that it seems clear at this point that Jesus knows how this story is going to end, but I won’t spoil it for you. After being glad at this sad news, Jesus waits a couple days before leaving and makes sure his disciples know that Lazarus is dead before they leave even though no one has come to tell Jesus this fact.
When they arrive, Jesus is scolded by Martha (which the Bible seems to indicate is a regular occurrence) for missing his opportunity to heal her brother. Then Mary comes and breaks down at his feet. She is joined by several other people who are grieving and Jesus is moved. In fact a couple verses before the shortest verse in the Bible it says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (11:33)
Then, troubled by their grief, Jesus weeps. Like I said before, it seems clear from the beginning that Jesus knows he is going to wait, Lazarus is going to die, and Jesus is going to raise him from the dead and cause everyone’s faith to deepen. That means that Jesus is not grieving the loss of his friend. He is not weeping because he misses the one he loved. Jesus is weeping with Mary and her friends.
That is powerful. In moments of grief, Jesus doesn’t tell us to suck it up or get control over ourselves. In moments of grief, Jesus does not demand joy. Jesus weeps with us. But he doesn’t leave us to wallow in our grief. If we are willing, if we can come to the place where we are open, Jesus will help us begin the supernatural process of healing.
I used to think that healing from loss meant it not hurting anymore or somehow getting over it, but I have learned that is not the case. Some things just hurt. They always hurt, and they always will hurt. But, sometimes in our cocoon of grief Jesus begins the metamorphosis of that pain.
He will begin to make that pain become something that gives to us rather than taking from us. Instead of causing us to break down, it will cause us to remember all of the wonderful gifts that whatever is causing the pain brought. It will enrich our lives by allowing us to remember, and in that memory we are nourished through what is still painful.
I don’t know if you are grieving right now or are on the mending side of grief, but know that if you weep, Jesus weeps with you. He does not demand you stop or ask you to feign joy, but offers to begin the (sometimes long) process of healing.