“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
The church has been praised and held up for millennia as a place where the broken are healed. And praise God it is true. The church, fueled by the Holy Spirit, has been a place where people come and receive grace, forgiveness and healing of not only the spirit but the body and the mind. It is a place where prayers changes people, where hopes are met and where the Creator of the universe makes His dwelling among us. It is a good place.
But there is something on the flip side of this that has been on my heart for some time now. Yes, the church is a place where the broken are healed, but what do we do when the healed are broken?
As a Church (that is big “C” Church, meaning worldwide, not just Creekside) we aren’t very good at admitting that brokenness happens in the middle of us every moment. These are the times when people ask why bad things happen to good people. And so often, truthfully too often, we talk about how God has a plan, which is true, and how He would never give us anything we couldn’t handle (which is totally untrue and Biblically unfounded) and how there is a reason for everything (yes, but that reason could be that the world is broken) and how God will be glorified at the end of it all.
I have a feeling that each and every one of you have experienced some level of brokenness in your life and have been “comforted” by one of those phrases. And while there is truth in most of them, that truth is rarely spoken in love, not because you aren’t loved but because too often we just don’t know what to say in the midst of pain.
When we talk about the story of Lazarus, we think of the dead man who was raised again but I think the whole story gives a better picture of Jesus’ response to pain and brokenness.
John chapter 11 tells the story of Jesus knowing that Lazarus was dying and when Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary sent word of just how sick their brother was, Jesus said “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (11:4) When it was clear to Jesus that it was time to go back to Judea his disciples reminded him that the last time Jesus visited Judea he was almost stoned. They went anyway, into the unknown, into possible ostracism and undoubtedly delicate territory.
Jesus arrived at Bethany to the news Lazarus had been buried four days prior. Martha went to meet him and said right to her Savior’s face “Lord, 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 could have left it there, yes Lazarus would rise again on the last day. We tell people that the reason for it all will be revealed eventually and that God will be glorified. But by leaving pain in such an abstract manner detracts from the reality of the now, the brokenness and pain that, even if it is healed some day, is by no means healed now.
So Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb and saw Mary and they went to the tomb and they sat in the reality of the pain and sorrow and mourning. Jesus gave credence to the effort of attempting to nurse him back to health. He took the time to acknowledge their heartbreak and anger and confusion at the sight of burying their brother. Jesus came to the tomb and wept. Right there, the Son of God, the one who was sent to vanquish the powers of sin, death and the devil, who knew that He would pull Lazarus from the tomb shortly didn’t tell them to be patient, or avoid their gaze at church, or give them some condescending talk about how it would be ok if they just had enough faith. He sat with them and wept.
So let’s covenant to weep together. To weep for broken hearts and broken bodies. We need to weep to give legitimacy to the pain and brokenness. And after we have wept, maybe we will find the words to say and maybe the words will no longer be necessary.
Ali can be reached via email here.