This week has been heavy. It has been overwhelming. It has been sad. It has been exhausting. It has been unsettling. This week has riddled my mind with anxiety and filled my heart with sorrow.
My gut reaction to these emotions is, "That is not very Christ-like. I was made for joy, not sorrow! Yes, everything looks terrible, but when we have Jesus we win! I need to get over this unholy attitude."
The Lord gently lifted my gaze, elevated my thinking, and altered my attitude today. Don't get me wrong, I am still feeling the weight of it all trying to paralyze me, but I'm not thinking this sorrow is unholy anymore.
John 11 is amazing. Jesus' friend Lazarus dies, but our Lord resurrects him; after four days in the grave, he was commanded to come alive once more. I just wish I was there to see this. I wish I could have watched as faces were frozen in disbelief, as eyes were rubbed and readjusted struggling to believe what was before them, as mouths gaped wide, and joy washed over their souls and spilled out of their eyes. Can you imagine? Just close your eyes for a moment and put yourself there outside of that cave, four days after the death of someone you hold dear, only to watch as the Savior breathes life back into dead bones and your loved one comes walking out of the tomb. Just imagine that moment. Live it in your mind's eye. Breathe it in.
Just before that resurrection, there is a scene played out involving Lazarus' sister, Mary, and Jesus. Mary is overwhelmed with grief. She sent for Jesus to come before Lazarus died in hopes that Jesus would heal him. Scratch that... in complete belief that Jesus was going to heal him. And then... he didn't come.
He didn't come immediately when she called. He waited until it was too late... four days too late. It even says in verses 5-6,
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Time out... He loved them so he stayed longer where he was at? He loved them so he didn't return right away? He loved them so he didn't come when she called? How is this even possible? How do these two sentences come together; how do they not contradict each other? Jump down to verses 14-15 and we read,
Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus has died, and for your sake, I'm glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
Jesus didn't respond, he didn't act, he was too late, not because he didn't love them, but because he did love them... because he had a plan. And it was for their good. His plan was painful, heart-wrenching, and full of sorrow because that is what brought more glory and it grew their faith beyond what they could imagine. Mary already believed Jesus was more than able to heal her brother; it's implied she even believed he would! But Jesus wanted to bring her faith to an even greater height, to an even deeper depth, to an even wider width. He wanted to push out any seed of doubt that still remained in her heart and he wanted to give her the gift of complete and total faith in his goodness and his divinity. So he waited until it was too late. He allowed her to experience deep, raw, overwhelming sorrow in order to give her the gift of an even greater joy. And then this...
Jesus stepped into her pain. He stepping into her grief, her mess, her sorrow, and sat down in it with her. Jesus lost his dear friend too. Jesus, being fully God and fully human, did what humans do when we lose something or someone dear: weep. Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew an even greater miracle than healing was about to occur. He knew he would call his spirit to return to his body. Jesus knew. And still Jesus wept.
If everything Jesus ever does is holy and by the will of the Father, his weeping was holy. His weeping was the will of the Father. His joining in Mary's pain was holy. His sorrow was holy.
Let that sink in for a moment. God created every emotion we feel. Feelings are not your enemy. Feelings are a gift from God. Feelings open our eyes to the beauty of God and his deep, outrageous love for His creation. There are no bad feelings. I know that may be unpopular in some spiritual circles. It is definitely unpopular in our culture which encourages us to run from sorrow and pain and to dive deep into self-satisfaction and self-indulgence. Feelings are a gift. Feelings are holy. But let's notice what Jesus did with his weeping and sorrow...
Jump down to verses 38-40. Just three verses after, "Jesus wept," it says,
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave and the stone lay against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead for four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?"
Jesus was moved by sorrow, but he didn't choose to live in that sorrow. He didn't choose to keep weeping. He didn't choose to crumble to pieces and dwell in his heartbreak.
Jesus let himself fully feel his grief, his sorrow, and then he allowed the truth to deeply move him to action. He chose to act on what he already knew was true. He knew death wasn't the end. He knew Lazarus would live again. He knew he would embrace him once again; he would hear his laugh and see his face. Jesus already knew the ending. So he stood up and moved forward toward the truth. He saw all the facts - a dead man in the grave for four days. That's pretty dead, y'all. There's no coming back from that. He saw the facts, but he knew the truth. He is the Truth.
And then Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus, the voice louder than death, and he awoke.
Friends, you and I are bombarded with facts every single day. Every moment of every day. We can't escape it. There are press conferences, news updates, notifications on our phones of more illness, more death, the numbers rising. There is so much happening around us that is producing holy tears.
So go ahead and weep. Be holy and feel the depth of sorrow. Allow Jesus to come and sit in your overwhelming mess, weeping alongside you for the moment.
Let him pick you up and lead you to the true life ahead. Let him make your faith greater than ever. Rejoice that he isn't on his way quite yet... that he is too late. Celebrate that he is waiting to come to us. Because we will see the glory of God. We will bear witness to miracle after miracle. We will know, our hearts filled with even more glorious belief than ever before, that He will come to us. That he will make all things new. That he will overwhelm us with his glory.
We see the facts, but we know the Truth. Every need we have is wholly met in Jesus. Every hope we have is wholly satisfied in Jesus. Every miracle, every glorious thing, every gift, everything... everything is in our Jesus.
So shake off the grief today. Rebirth is on its way. New life is ahead of us. Glory will surround us and we will be left with jaws slackened, eyes spilling over with joy, hearts bursting with faith, and we will be wrapped in His beauty and grace and holiness. We will be astounded and say, "Only the Lord!"
There is holy sorrow... and that holy sorrow leads to holy joy in Jesus.