I didn't want to write a blog like this. I generally try to avoid adding yet another voice to already-congested conversations in which people are so apt to become socially aggressive. But I feel I would be remiss not to acknowledge a problem I've been seeing in the church's response to the horrific tragedy of the school shooting last week. And that problem is this. We are trying to hard to "solve" all the problems and not trying hard enough to just simply grieve.
John 11: 32-44 (my emphasis)
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
When we face tragedy, we have a natural desire to want to explain it. We think that if perhaps we could just catch a hold of some deeper reason or motivation for the act, we would find peace. That's why everyone's so obsessed with finding the motive of the shooter and why the Jews in this story want to know why Jesus didn't keep this man from dying. When we can't find clear answers, we start to make up our own. We politicize events to form a commentary on things like gun control, prayer in schools, and parenting skills. We post clip art of God holding little sheep on social media websites and argue with each other on Facebook.
But we're missing something very, very important.
This passage never really made much sense to me before this week. I mean, I appreciated that Jesus had compassion, that He was capable of feeling such grief for his friend. But I was missing something.
Jesus knew all along He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet still, He wept.
Thus the grief of Jesus takes on a whole new dynamic, as does His compassion for us. It's so easy to dismiss real problems in life, real pain, by saying those children are in a better place. And they are--please don't misunderstand. But their being in a better place does not negate the horror of the situation, nor does it keep from moving the heart of God.
If Jesus knew it was to raise Lazarus back to life, and yet He still took pause to grief with those He loved, how much more ought we to grief with those who are hurting in this life? Grief, in this way, becomes a very holy act. In the church, we're all to quick to dismiss the realities of our fallen world and point heavenward. While we mustn't lose sight of the coming resurrection, we also must keep tender hearts that feel as deeply as the heart of God. How will this world catch hold of the hope of salvation, of the peace of God, if we don't demonstrate God's love meeting people right where they are?
In order to do that, we must first feel. The Bible says we should "weep with those who weep." This is a heavy calling and not something that is fun, for keeping a sensitive heart also means subjecting yourself to great pain. But if we don't know pain, can we ever know true healing?
What if, instead of spending our energy fighting over possible solutions or answers for tragedy, we simply stop, as Jesus did with Mary, and weep?
The resurrection is coming. But the death is just as real. May we never neglect the powerful hope of the resurrection by neglecting to face the reality of the fall.