For the last week of our forty days together, we’ll be hearing from some other voices in our church. Today’s entry comes from Young Adults Leader Hannah Adkison.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
JOHN 11:33-36 (ESV)
Lazarus was very dead, and Jesus showed up very late.
If you’ve been around church long enough, you probably know this story from the felt board in some weird smelling Sunday school classroom. You probably read it jumping up and down, yelling for Martha and Mary that there’s no need for tears, probably telling Jesus not to cry. Lazarus will live! Don’t worry, Jesus! You actually heal him!
We see the ending written in black and white. Lazarus walks out of the grave, proving that God has all authority and power, even over death. Why do we rush past the entirety of the story? Why do we read verses 1-42 in hyper speed and suddenly take a deep breath at verse 43?
The fact is we just don’t like pain. We don’t want to sit in the tension of a dead friend who hasn’t been healed. We don’t want to linger near the suffering of questions unanswered and tears flowing like rivers and hearts torn right open.
Somehow, we think that if we know the happy ending, it should save us and those involved from the pain. But what if that’s not the point? What if the point was never to just avoid the pain and fast-forward to the miracle? What if Jesus teaches us, verse by painfully slow verse, that there’s something of his character to be found in the suffering?
Just to give us some context, Jesus 100% knew what was going to happen. After receiving Martha’s message to come quickly, he told his disciples that Lazarus had merely fallen asleep and that he was going to wake him up. And then he said it was for their benefit that he waited to go to him so that they may believe! Jesus stays away far longer than anyone is comfortable with, and then finally he begins making his way to Bethany. To where Lazarus lay stone cold dead and where the rest of the family, of Jesus’ dearly loved friends, are reeling in grief and heartache.
Martha runs to him as soon as she hears he is close, and here’s where we see the glory of his intimate love for us first. Martha does not mince her words as she straight up calls Jesus out on the fact that he could have healed her brother had he come sooner. Jesus had a lot of options here. He could have rebuked Martha or simply dismissed her sorrow and kept on his way towards the task at hand. But he does neither.
Instead, Jesus patiently tells her his plans for her brother’s healing; He even seems to stop and just be with her in her suffering in that moment. He is kind enough to remind her that he is the resurrection life, and that even death submits to him. She need not fear.
Maybe, like Martha, you need to know today that Jesus hears you and cares very specifically for you, even when you are upset with Him and confused at His timing.
From here we encounter Mary, who chapters earlier was doting upon Jesus at His feet. Now we find her upset and hurt and not even wanting to go see Him. But the moment Jesus calls her name she runs to him and falls again at his feet, unashamed, this time of her pain.
Maybe, like Mary, you need to hear Jesus calling you his friend, by name.
Mary repeats the cry of her sister, and the passage says that when Jesus saw her weeping, he was deeply moved.
Do you hear that? Jesus saw Mary weeping, and he was deeply moved.
It doesn’t say that Jesus saw her weeping and told her to get over it. It doesn’t say that he saw her weeping, and he told her to stop her crying because he was going to fix it all. Scripture does not imply that Jesus is distant or emotionless or above the heartache. Both women approach Him in their pain, and he cares for them. He hears them and comforts them and makes it known that their pain is not silly or for lack of faith.
Maybe, like Martha and Mary, you need to hear that Jesus knows your pain is not silly or with you for lack of faith.
Scripture says Jesus walks forward, knowing the Father’s will, knowing the joyful, triumphant ending, and yet he is deeply moved by the ones he loves. He weeps.
This is a truth we must hold tightly to, even if we never understand it on this side of Heaven: Jesus is perfect peace, and yet he weeps.
I often think God looks at my heartache and thinks it’s inconsequential. I often think that if I just focus on the happy ending, on the heavenly reward, on His ways being far above mine, if I try hard enough not to feel the pain, somehow I’m more holy. Somehow that means I trust Him more.
Focusing on God’s character and His power and His divine providence is so absolutely important. But God, being far above us in all ways, can be two things at once. He can be the Lion and the Lamb. He can be both Wrath and Grace. He can be Justice and Mercy.
He can be at Peace and still find value in the pain.
He is a God who is attentive and close. He put on skin to walk this earth and die a death, felt pain and suffering, took on what He didn’t deserve – all this so we could live. He is a God who didn’t use His godliness to lessen the pain of the cross, but instead took on the full brunt of it for our benefit and for His glory.
God is intimately aware of every aspect of my life. He knows the number of hairs on my head, and He knows each thought before I think it. Like a friend who hurts to see me hurting, I am His beloved, and what I feel, where I am at, and where I am going matter deeply to Him. The pain, and allowing Him to be with you in it – confusing as it is – is just as much a part of the story to Him as the healing.
John spends forty-two verses on how Jesus walked and wept with his friends through the pains of this life, and just two on the miracle. I don’t know, but it seems there might be something to that.
Take a listen to Hillsong’s “As You Find Me” and make its lyrics your prayer today:
I've been strong
And I've been broken within a moment
I've been faithful
And I've been reckless at every bend
I've held everything together
And watched it shatter
I've stood tall and I have crumbled
In the same breath
I have wrestled
And I have trembled toward surrender
Chased my heart adrift
And drifted home again
Till I've been desperate to find redemption
And every time I turn around
Lord You're still there
I was found
Before I was lost
I was Yours
Before I was not
Grace to spare
For all my mistakes
And that part just wrecks me
And I know I don't deserve this kind of love
Somehow this kind of love is who You are
It's a grace I could never add up
To be somebody You still want
You love me as You find me
Do you rush past your pain? Do you jot it down in a journal to sit on another day? Do you trust God with your pain? Do you believe that He actually wants to weep with you? Do you believe He loves you right where He finds you — in the middle of the death or the chaos or the uncertainty or the failure or the waiting? Slow down today. Fall at God’s feet, and let your pain be known to Him.