Posted in Living this Life

The One where Jesus Weeps

Maybe I’ve read it too many times. Do you ever do that? Reach a grand, sweeping story in the Bible and just skim through it like an old sitcom re-run? “The One Where Jesus feeds 5,000 people”… “The One Where He Walks On Water” … you know what I mean, right?

That’s what was happening when I tripped over these two simple words. Truth be told, it’s an oft repeated verse around these parts – my boys say it’s their favorite verse to memorize in Scripture. That might be because it’s known as the shortest verse, and what would a proper boy be if he wasn’t looking for the easiest opportunity to get out of a memorization assignment? So there I was, entering into the “One where Jesus raises someone from the dead” episode, when it stopped me in my tracks.

“Jesus wept”, it says. Yeah, I know we’ve read those words before. Maybe even talked about it. But I’ve never read those words in the context we are now enveloped in throughout our world. Muddling through. Confused by. This “squinting-to-see-truth -through-the-haze” kind of world we are in. So I backed up – and I read it again as if I’d never heard the story. Go there with me…

Jesus receives news that His good friend Lazarus is sick. His sisters, Mary and Martha, are begging Him to help. After all, He is God, right? And He does love them, right? And how does Jesus respond? He waits.

Hold it right there. The story is already hitting too close to home. This is perhaps the most frustrating and confounding of God’s responses to my cries for help. “Will you just do something, God?” I chafe. I try to “help” Him out. I reason with Him, explaining how easy it would be for Him to fix everything … as if He needed to hear how to do His job better. I beg to hear an answer. Even a no – just a something. Some indication that you know I exist. That I need you. That you care. Something, God!

And yet Jesus waits.

Long enough to ensure the worst possible scenario. Lazarus, His friend, dies – and then Jesus decides to show up. His disciples are confused. Jesus makes parodoxical statements that seem to clarify nothing – and then He marches resolutely towards Bethany. It seems to everyone that He’s just a couple days too late at this point.

That’s when this moment that makes time stand still takes place. Jesus is still on the outskirts of town. He has a plan that no one knows. He intends to display God’s glory and power. He knows that the death of His friend will end in resurrection. In a victory that no one can fathom or would dare to predict. He carries all this in His heart as He enters Bethany.

Yet, there stand Mary and Martha. Weeping. Feeling the crushing defeat of death and grief, abandonment and betrayal – they ask all the questions… Why? Where were you when we needed you? You could have saved our brother – why didn’t you come when we called?

Do you feel the weight of those questions today? We all experienced this last year – differently, perhaps, but the loss was there. Confusion permeated the air. Life happened and God has been faithful, but almost like the ongoing horn of a car alarm, there has been this underlying tension that has frayed the nerves and changed us all. Where were you, God?

It’s almost like we can taste the very human saltiness of those tears.

As Jesus stands before Mary, Martha, and the questioning crowds, you’ve gotta wonder what He’s thinking. He knows the end of the story. He knows He came to raise the dead – how easy it would be to slap them on the back, laugh a little, and say “Don’t cry, girls! Come and see what I’m going to do!” He could so easily point to the victory ahead, remind them of all the good days to come.

But not my Jesus. He stands there, holding resurrection in His heart, looking into their grieving souls, and He weeps.

Right there, in that staggering moment, I see Jesus with new eyes. He is my Savior who holds victory in His whisper and promises of hope with every tomorrow – but right now, in this present place, He simply sits with us and feels with us.

My friend, do you feel that? I don’t know what kind of pain, grief, anxiety, or other challenges you face. I am grateful to know that on the other side of it all, there is more in store for us than we could ask or imagine. (Eph. 3:20) But right now, in the middle of it all, don’t we really need to know that Jesus is in it with us? Crying with our sorrows, hurting with our confusion, laughing in our joys, and cradling us when we feel so lost?

I take a deep breath, and let my soul rest in this. This beautiful reality that my Jesus knows. He may not be answering all my questions right now – and honestly, that may not help. Answers may calm our minds, but our heart needs more. It needs Jesus’ presence now – comforting us in our pain. Walking with us in our sorrow. Giving us the assurance of His faithfulness in our questions. Lifting us in our joys.

But I love that the story doesn’t end here! Jesus didn’t stop there, on the outskirts of Bethany. He didn’t build a camp around their grief and sink into the trench of sorrow with them. He moved forward – and brought them with Him. Jesus said, “Show me where he (Lazarus) is”. He goes boldly, unafraid, to the source of their grief. And then He heals.

He has the victory in hand. When we sit in silence, He knows. While we wait, He prepares a way. While we are weeping, He weeps with us. And then He gently takes us to the source of our pain and offers healing. Resurrection power.

My friend, our resurrection will look different than we expect. It may not be the resurrection of what has physically or emotionally died. It may take longer than we expect and we may not fully understand it until we see it on the other side, but it is no less real.

His promise of resurrection leads to victory. It gives us a road out of grief, helps us carry our tears to a place of hope, carves new vision for tomorrow. We can trust His promises. All of them. Even when He is silent. Don’t let your confusion shut Him out. Don’t let your grief dull your senses. Feel His tears alongside your own. Let His presence with you bring you comfort. And then fight for hope. Fight for victory.

Listen to Him say, “Lazarus, come out!”

Posted in Living this Life

Mr. Wonderful

I called him Uncle David – but in retrospect, I should have called him Mr. Wonderful.

It was his answer every time you asked him how he was doing – I can still hear his gentle voice tinged with joy, “well, I’m wonderful, darling!”

Uncle David 3

And it’s how he made us feel. Just plain wonderful.¬† So this morning, as I process the news that Mr. Wonderful is now with His Savior, I find myself rejoicing in that beautifully gentle spirit he carried – but I have so many questions…

I didn’t know my Uncle David in his younger years. I didn’t know him when he fought in Vietnam, and I don’t know the horrors he lived through there. Those were memories he didn’t want to re-live, and that’s where it stayed. And I didn’t know him well as I was growing up – he was my Uncle, but I was on the other side of the world and saw him only every few years.

But as life weaves a beautiful tapestry around us so often, it brought my life and his closer, and I was blessed over the past few years to get to spend more time with this amazing man.

Uncle DavidHe called my kids silly names like “McGillicuty”. He made them laugh and brought so much joy to all of us. He poured life and love and goodness out on us in unending measure. And that’s what my heart can’t get over this morning as I sit here grasping for words in the midst of my tears. That impossible joy in the face of a life filled with much sorrow. How does that happen? I know it’s not an accident.

Because we all know the natural course of a human heart. Pain causes us to close up and grow hard. Life hurts, so we grow a shell around our spirits to protect us. Anger begets anger and we so often find ourselves in a vicious cycle of pain. So when you see a man who exudes joy and gentleness in the midst of such hardness, you have to stop and ask “why?” Or maybe the better question is “how ?”

He endured much pain. Marked by a hard a brutal war when he was young. He tragically lost his grandson a few years ago. His own beloved son died suddenly just last year. He suffered physically, carrying effects of Agent Orange in his body as well as many other struggles. When life hit hard and seemed to overwhelm, he would simply hug me and say he loved me. I would ask him how he’s hanging on, and he would say, “how can it help to be angry?”¬† He knew the best protection of a soul comes in staying open – but how?

He must have known a secret. A life giving, beautiful secret that the rest of us need to remember. How do we best remember Uncle David? By making sure his spirit is carried on. He was a special man Рand the greatest tragedy would be to let that special spirit die with him. Because what keeps flooding  my heart and mind is this: the secret he had is available to all of us. And we honor Uncle David best by finding it and preserving it and letting it mark our own hearts.

In light of a hard life, he responded with gentleness and peace. It makes me think of these words, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These words mark how I remember my Uncle David, and I think this is the secret that he would want to pass on to all of us. How did he do it? I see the answer in the next few words… “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:22-25) I believe Uncle David made a choice to let the Spirit of God shape his heart, and though he wasn’t perfect, he kept in step with the Spirit of God. He reflected a different Spirit than the world has to offer, and we were all marked by that.

I can’t quite stop the tears from flowing this morning. I’m thankful my precious Uncle David is no longer living in such pain, however I will desperately miss him and the light he carried. But I also know it’s not completely snuffed out. Because the Spirit of God that lived in him is alive. And there is no darkness it cannot enter and no hardness it cannot touch. And I know the best way we honor the legacy of this amazing man is to let that Spirit change us in the same way.

So here I sit at the foot of the cross. Here I reflect on the words that offer freedom – “if you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) and this – “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) Oh! and these beautiful words that many know but it takes a lifetime to fully grasp – “For God so loved ___________________ (put your name in here) that He gave His only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16)

The everlasting life is what Uncle David is experiencing right now. The changed life is what we got to experience through him all these years. I find myself sitting here on this rainy fall morning asking my Jesus anew to form and shape this spirit that gets twisted by circumstances into a spirit molded by Him. Knowing that in the midst of the unbearable pain life brings us at times, there is freedom on the other side. Uncle David is seeing it unveiled with his own eyes for the first time, but he tasted and reflected the beauty of it all these years. And I want to reflect more of it today and tomorrow and the next. In honor of Uncle David. In honor of the Savior he loved so very much.

Oh – and Uncle David? Say hi to grandma and grandpa for me!!