The first man to ever turn my head did so when he cried while giving his testimony. There is just something about a crying man that gets our attention. I believe that this may have something to do with the fact that crying is often times an expression of helplessness, and according to popular culture, men aren’t supposed to be helpless. They’re supposed to be the ones who don’t need to ask for directions but just know where to go and what to do. So it is of no surprise that one of the most famous verses in the Bible is the shortest verse, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
I have a confession to make. I get really nervous about giving testimonies. Of course you would never think that because I jump at every opportunity to share what God is doing in my life. If this blog doesn’t show that I don’t know what does. Yes, I’m excited about what God’s doing and I want to share everything with everyone (a little excessively sometimes), but it gets me really nervous. Here’s an example that illustrates why. After I wrote my last blog, I was struggling hard with feelings of depression and loneliness. Wait a minute! I had just written a blog about how I can look my troubles in the eye and say, “It’s worth it” because of the relationship I have with Jesus. So what am I whining about? Yes, I know that my relationship with Jesus both here on earth and in eternity makes the struggles I face worth it, but it still hurts – a lot.
In all our pain there is definitely a greater reality of God’s truth. However, it does not take away nor diminish the reality of our current situation. Sometimes a suffering believer finds himself where I did last night, questioning the validity of the truth in light of their present circumstances and emotions which are screaming in pain. I sometimes picture a child who has been wounded and whose parent is trying to dress the wound. The alcohol which is meant to clean the wound stings, and the wound can hurt more at the moment of the alcohol application than it did before. The child probably wonders how in the world is the alcohol supposed to help to heal him if it hurts so much. Last night, I faced a similar situation as I wondered how the pain can possibly be used by God to bring me closer to him when it hurts so much.
There are those in the church who believe that a believer should not complain about the pain that they go through, but should accept it gladly and rejoice in the midst of suffering. Some even go as far as to say that those who do not receive hardship with joy are not truly saved. Well, since Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, let’s take a look at what he has to say about this.
John 11 begins with Lazarus (the brother of Mary and Martha) very sick. Mary and Martha send someone to tell Jesus about Lazarus hoping that Jesus will come and heal Lazarus . Instead of coming right away, Jesus tells them that Lazarus isn’t going to die and then he stays put for a while longer. By the time Jesus finally decides to show up, Lazarus is dead and Mary and Martha are overcome with grief. Their grief turns to anger when they see Jesus and they both say the same thing, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” In other words, “Jesus, if you cared about us and about Lazarus you would have come earlier and healed him so he wouldn’t die!”
Here’s something I’d like you to notice for a second. Prior to Jesus arriving at Lazarus’s tomb, he has a conversation with Martha where Martha declares her faith in him (see John 11:22-27). Is she saved? Absolutely! Does she know Jesus can do anything? You bet she does! But it still hurts! Her brother is dead and it doesn’t make any sense; it just hurts like crazy! Why wasn’t Jesus here? Her sister Mary couldn’t agree more. (Let’s not forget that this is the same Mary who poured perfume on the Lord’s feet declaring her faith and love for Jesus, as verse 2 reminds us.)
Jesus’ response? You guessed it – verse 35, “Jesus wept.” Hold on a second. Jesus has made it clear that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Why then is he crying with Mary and Martha? He wasn’t crying because he was helpless to change the situation, as some thought in verse 37. He was crying because he loved the three of them, and he knows it hurts, and it hurt him too.
Just as he did with Mary and Martha, he validates our pain. When he saw Mary, Martha, and everyone else weeping, what did he say? “Where have you laid him?” In other words, “Where does it hurt?” He wants us to invite him into our pain. When he comes in he doesn’t come in wagging his finger at our unbelief. He cries with us. His spirit is deeply moved and troubled right along with our spirit. Not only is he grieved that we are hurting, but the Greek usage of the words “deeply moved” actually show that he is angry at what has hurt them. Just as a parent would be angry at anything or anyone who hurts his child, he is angry at the evil of this fallen world that brings such pain and death.
He validates their pain.
Then, and only then does he take them by the hand and lead them to the resurrection.
The resurrection is a glorious reality for the believer as I mentioned in my last blog. Eternity at Jesus’ side will definitely make our troubles and trials worth it. However, Jesus knows that for now, it still hurts bad, and he weeps with us. Because of this, he extends his hands and asks us to take him to where it hurts so that he can show us just how much he loves us when he says, “Lazarus, come out!”