One night in March 2015, I was startled awake in the middle of the night with a vaguely familiar Bible verse tugging at my subconscious: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died (John 11:32).
I recognized the line from the story of Lazarus’ death and subsequent raising—a strange verse to consume my mind, but it gnawed at me until I kicked off the sheets and flipped open my Bible. Day after day, I read the story, fixated on how Jesus responded to death.
Just a few weeks later, I got the kind of phone call I had long dreaded—the kind that begins with tragic news and ends with a long middle-of-the-night drive to grieve with family.
In that season of bewildering grief, I often pictured Jesus facing the news of His friend’s death. While imagery of Jesus often depicts Him as serene and placid, that Jesus seemed distant from my current reality. I craved a Jesus who understood loss. As Bonhoeffer reflected from his prison cell, in seasons of pain, “only a suffering God can help.”
For a long time before facing grief myself, I thought that an orderly theology of suffering would keep me afloat in painful times. But Jesus’ tears tell me that knowledge does not insulate us from pain.
Jesus knew how the story would end. He knew that the moments of sorrow were numbered, that Lazarus would lie in the tomb for only minutes more. And yet, rather than rush to the miracle, He chose to pause and mourn with Lazarus’ sisters.
His tears remind me that grief and hope can coexist. In moments of great sorrow and places of great brokenness, may Jesus’ example give us permission to mourn losses deeply, while clinging to the hope that one day He will make all things new.
In You we do not grieve without hope. Help us as we hold in tension the promise that You will make all things new and the reality of present brokenness. May we overflow with compassion for the hurting, and when we ourselves hurt, comfort us with Your loving presence.
by Sarah Ann Schultz, HOPE marketing communications specialist