Tragedy. Grieving. Right now, in my world, they feel almost tangible.
Last Friday morning, on her way to work, Angie, a 39-year-old mother of four boys, lost her life in a car accident. In an instant so many lives were stopped in their tracks, worlds turned upside down, hearts broken. We live in communities of large families and tight connections, so this tragedy really did seem to touch everyone. We ourselves are shocked and grieving, and our hearts break even more as we feel the grief of her husband and boys, her siblings and parents, her close friends. Her funeral is today.
Today, January 17th, also marks two years since Owen Weaver passed away. Did you know Owen? Our “small town superhero”? Contagious smile and real joy despite physical handicaps. It has been two years, but the grief is still very present. Especially for his family, forever changed by his presence and every day feeling his absence.
It doesn’t take much looking around to find difficulty and heartache. We have it in our own circles: devastating illnesses, ongoing fights against addiction, and all sorts of troubles of varying degrees, but all with their own kinds of pain. These things are hard! Hard for us to deal with in our own lives, and hard as we try to comfort others. So many times we don’t know how to act or what to say, especially in the face of great tragedy and sorrow like Angie’s family and the Weaver family are experiencing. We want to communicate our care, but we are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing, of somehow making the pain worse.
I am not an expert at any of this, but I have learned that it is better to acknowledge the pain in others than to ignore it because of our fear of messing up. Often it is as simple as following Paul’s advice from Romans 12:15, “…weep with those who weep.”
Today I weep with those who are weeping for Angie and her family. I weep with those who are so deeply missing Owen, especially his family.
And as I weep, I look to Jesus for comfort. The Bible tells us that He wept (John 11:35). He wept over the death of His friend, Lazarus.
Read the story…
“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’
Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’
When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.
Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.
When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
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.
My sister pointed out to me a few months ago, that Mary, the one who had loved sitting at Jesus’ feet, stayed home instead of going out to meet him like her sister. Martha went to him, but Mary stayed home. In our grief, we have different reactions. Some of us are quick to go to Jesus, ready to be with Him, even though we don’t understand why He didn’t do what we know He could have done to fix things and prevent all this pain we are feeling. Some of us stay home. In our grief and suffering, we just can’t go there. Look what Jesus did. He called for Mary. Martha told her, “The Teacher is here, and is asking for you.”
Jesus promised His disciples later in the book of John, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:18 KJV)
Psalm 34 tells us, “The Lord is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 CSB)
Real hope, real comfort, real healing is found in Jesus. It’s OK to ask why-Martha did. Mary did. Even Jesus did. “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46 CSB) We are told he cried this out with a loud voice.
Death hurts. Pain can be blinding and stop us in our tracks. We don’t understand, and we often feel betrayed and angry.
Right in the middle of all that, the Lord is near, and He is calling. He feels our pain, like He felt Mary and Martha’s pain. He weeps. He comforts. And one more thing, He promises glory if we will just believe.
After He wept with Martha and Mary, we know that He called Lazarus back to life. He is the resurrection and the life. He said to Martha in John 11:40, “Did not I tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Yes, Jesus raising Lazarus from death was glory. We don’t get that same miraculous, right now happy ending in many of our losses, but, if we believe, we will see glory. It might take a long time to get there, but it will be worth it.
When tragedy strikes, when life hurts, go to Jesus, let Him be near. Bring your questions. Believe.
God, we hurt. We weep. We need You to be near with Your comfort. Please help us in our grief to hear you calling us out of our house. You want to weep with us and speak to us and show us Your glory. I pray that You would be present in a beautiful and powerful way with those who are today experiencing such heavy grief. I pray that You would show us how to care for them. We cry out with the praying father in Mark 9:24, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'” We believe. Help our unbelief. Our prayers are in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.