When you wonder where God is in the pain
It seems there is an outpouring of pain in the life stirring around me. Or maybe I’m just hyper-aware.
Friends walking through heartbreak in so many areas.
Some entering into the joys and pains of motherhood and others desperately wishing they were in the throws of growing a child.
Some feeling the devastation of the marriages coming to an end while others deeply yearning for a partner.
Some walking alongside loved ones who fight against illness and disease.
Others experiencing the death of those so close to them that they pound at their chests and cry out how and why and why and how?
I always struggle with what to say. I cannot promise that new life will spring forth or that there are reasons or that justice will be served. I cannot assure my people that they will receive all their hearts are crying for. I cannot seem to find the words that will bring comfort or peace or calm. So instead, mostly I just grieve with them, offering mild words that attempt to soothe a broken heart. I try to meet them, in step, with my heart breaking a little bit too. And a lot of times, I wonder and question. I don’t wonder if God is good or if He will meet them there, but my heart yearns to know how He will.
Will they see it? Will I see it? Why isn’t He louder? What is He doing?
I’m in the midst of re-learning God’s character. Over time, I started to wonder what good and holy and powerful and sovereign meant. I got lost in the meaning of words so big and abstract in a being I couldn’t understand. The mystery awed and silenced me, but also frustrated me.
So I began to search, and in my searching, I again read the story of Lazarus.
Lazarus and his sisters (Martha and Mary) were close friends of Jesus. So, when Lazarus became super sick, Mary and Martha reached out to Jesus, asking Him to come.
As Jesus made his way to Bethany to see Lazarus, who had since died, Mary fell at his feet, saying “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died!” What Jesus does next sweeps me off of my feet.
He meets Mary, right where she’s at, and weeps.
The dictionary definition for weeping reads (verb):
To express grief, sorrow, or any overpowering emotion by shedding tears.
His Spirit was deeply moved (John 11:33b).
His heart was greatly troubled (John 11:33b).
He saw how those around him were mourning (John 11:33 a).
So he wept.
I think of how that must have looked.
Jesus, God with skin on his back and flesh on his bones, the sovereign Savior of all that we know, was overpowered with sorrow. A grown man, bearing his suffering for all to see, freely shedding tears of deep, languished lament.
He knew what would happen. He knew that in just a short time he would perform the greatest miracle ever written in the Gospel (save His own resurrection) by raising Lazarus from the dead. And yet…. He was still overpowered with sorrow so strong that the only physical declaration left was the rawest expression of human emotion.
And here’s what I am re-learning about the very core of who He is: He meets us where we are, in the pain and agony and bitter taste of sorrow, and he laments with us.
He does not always fix every ache or pain or despair right away. Sometimes, healing or gifts never come on our terms. But he does hold every broken and bruised and beating heart close to His. So close, in fact, that He weeps while we weep. His heart breaks in the same way ours do. The cracks and crevices of our hearts meet and join His.
We may never know why some prayers go unanswered and some miracles stay dormant. The questions will still dance and the doubts may still flicker. But here’s what we see when we read of Jesus’ love wrapped up in the moment between Jesus and Lazarus’ family: His perceived silence when prayers go unanswered do not fall on deaf ears. When our deepest desires are not given, it’s not because he does not care or does not see. When our hearts are ripped into pieces and the pain is real and visceral and raw and alive, it does not mean He is not there.
His heart still beating close to ours, his eyes wet with compassion- He meets us. Perhaps not in the way we want, but always in the way that we need.
Jesus, God with skin and bones, creator of empathy and compassion and a love so deep our tiny beating hearts can barely comprehend, meets us.
There is no greater love than that.