January 18, 2019
I was sitting on a hotel bed when the text arrived. Though I’d steeled myself for bad news, I still wasn’t prepared. My hands shook as I read the words, “Lizzie, dear, your brother left this world at 6:27 p.m. Mountain Time …”
There was more, but I couldn’t bear to read it. A great sob poured out as I threw the phone across the bed. Not in anger but in despair. It can’t be true. It can’t be.
Every emotion flooded through me as I tried to stem my tears, pressing a washcloth to my face. The thought of never seeing my brother again was more than I could bear. I wept until I could weep no more, and then I wept again.
Perhaps that’s how Jesus responded 2,000 years ago in Bethany. Not just one tear running down His cheek, but a steady stream flowing from the depths of His heart, as He watched Martha and Mary mourning the loss of their brother Lazarus.
When a loved one dies, “if onlys” often haunt our thoughts for weeks, months, even years after the funeral.
“If only I’d called that morning …”
“If only I’d insisted on a second opinion …”
“If only I’d stopped by on my way to work …”
Having now buried both my parents, both my in-laws, all three of my dear brothers, and far too many friends, I would offer this gentle advice about giving in to “if onlys”: Don’t go there, beloved. God knows the hour of each person’s passing. Whatever we did or didn’t do for someone we loved, the timing of his or her departure was God’s alone.
Mary of Bethany surely knew this truth, yet she fell at Jesus’ feet that day, unable to hold back her tears.
Jesus could hardly ignore her profound grief or the crying and sobbing of her friends. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (John 11:33, NIV).
There’s more going on here than meets the eye. Jesus was visibly distressed — not from angst as much as anger. Jesus was mad? Yes, He was. The Bible tells us He became “enraged in the Spirit” (John 11:33b, JUB), and “a deep anger welled up within him” (John 11:33b, NLT). Almost like a horse showing its displeasure.
Was He frustrated with Mary’s tears? Disgusted at her lack of faith? Not our compassionate Savior. He was angry with death itself and the grave’s power to rob His people of hope, of joy, of peace.
When He asked Mary and the others, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34a, NIV), Jesus followed them to Lazarus’s tomb, prepared to put an end to their suffering.
What happened next was tender, sacred and unexpected. Captured in a verse with only two words, famous for its brevity but far more for its depth of emotion, "Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
He did, friend. The Son of God wept. A great sadness swept over Him, moving Him to tears, as He felt their sorrow in a deeply personal way, just as He feels ours.
However much we’re hurting, we can take comfort in this: When we suffer, He suffers with us. When we grieve, He grieves.
The witnesses that day said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36, NIV). Yes, see how He loves each one of His followers. Wanting us to live with hope, rather than fear … with joy, rather than sorrow … with peace, rather than regret.
Lord Jesus, thank You for meeting us right where we are, even in the depths of our pain. For shedding Your tears, reminding us we’re never alone. For shedding Your blood, assuring us we will live with You forever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (NIV)
2 Corinthians 1:3, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.” (NIV)
Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (ESV)
Go deeper into the lives of Martha and Mary of Bethany, and learn more about the Lord who loved and comforted them, through the pages of Liz Curtis Higgs’ book, The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene.
Join Liz Curtis Higgs on Facebook today for an encouraging discussion about all the ways the Lord comforts us, plus a chance to win an autographed copy of The Women of Easter.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In the same way God comforts us, we are called to comfort one another. Today, pay special attention to each person who crosses your path. If you see someone whose spirits are low or whose faces are downcast, how might you comfort them?
Share your thoughts in today’s comments section, and let us know some ways that you have been deeply comforted before.
© 2019 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.