Jesus Wept

McClelland016Today marks two years since Travis left this earth to enter heaven. I do not think I even have adequate words to describe the journey of grief. One thing that I do know for sure is that the journey of grief is long, extremely painful and tiring. The thing that has troubled me the most is how not only the majority of society but the majority of the Christian community tend to view others who are traveling the journey of grief.

People seem to offer many cliches and platitudes to people who are grieving. Christians seem very prone to this as well. There is a previous post I did on “Christian Cliches About Death”. At the time, I had heard some of those phrases uttered to me. At this point, I have heard all of those and even more. As if somehow, someone’s words will take away our pain and our loss. I realize that most people do not know what to say or may feel that they have to offer some sort of Christian viewpoint or wisdom that will make sense of our suffering and condense it down to a “bumper sticker” phrase. Those words and phrases just seem to make my grief and loss more apparent and magnify my feelings of solitariness.McClelland040

During this part of my journey, as I kept encountering this mindset and attitude, my mind kept returning to the story of when Jesus’ best friend, Lazarus died. Most of us know the story. If asked what the shortest verse in the Bible is, we would be able to say, “Jesus wept.” Few of us in the Christian community have taken the time to truly examine not only Jesus’ reaction to grief in this story but His reaction to grief in general. This post is not meant to be an indictment or judgement but simply to offer a brief glimpse into a different view of how God would want us to love each other.

I am not sharing this story to be theoretically correct, more to highlight what I feel that Jesus’ heart was towards grief and loss. The full story is located in John 11, if you want to read it in it’s entirety. To summarize, Jesus receives word that Lazarus, His friend is dying. I think at one point in scripture, it even describes Jesus loving Lazarus like a brother. So this was no casual friendship. It was someone whom He had shared life with, shared his heart with and someone whose heart was intertwined with His. Jesus does not leave and go to His friend, He stays where He is. He does not show up the way His disciples think he should or even how Mary and Martha (Lazarus’ sisters) think He should. When He finally arrives, Lazarus has been dead for four days.

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Martha (the more logical of the two sister’s personalities based on previous’ accounts) meets Jesus first and says the words that most people have uttered a million times to God after a loss. “If you had been here, if you just would have showed up, then he would not be dead.” Underneath that statement is a churning sea of emotion composed of anger, betrayal, hurt, abandonment and grief. Jesus answers Martha with a statement of truth that meets Martha in her heart right where she was. He does not condemn, He does not judge or offer some platitude or question her faith. In His statement, He never promises Martha that He will bring Lazarus back to life but something in His response urges her to go get her sister, Mary. I am sure that Martha thought that Jesus would meet Mary with the same words that He gave her.

When Mary (the more emotional and heartfelt of the two sisters) meets Jesus, notice she repeats the same words as her sister but Jesus response to her was radically different. Again, no condemnation, judgment or trite words of comfort.

He wept.

Why?

Was Jesus weeping because He was moved alone by the grief that he saw demonstrated in Mary’s tears and in Lazarus friends? After all, did not He already now that He was going to bring Lazarus back to life? I think that it was more than that. I have been told that the word “weep” in this verse is translated to mean, deep intense wailing from the center of someone’s being. A weeping and crying that is not remedied by any solace or comfort but is deep and abiding. I believe that in that moment, Jesus felt the tissue searing, bone crushing grief of losing a friend, a brother, a loved one to death.

I wonder if in that moment, as God viewed and felt the grief of Lazarus’ family and friends and even of His own son, was that when He made the decision to give Jesus the permission to bring Lazarus back? Yes, it showed a great miracle on behalf of Jesus but Jesus had raised many people and had given them back to their families. This was not the first time. Why? I do not think it was only to prove Jesus’ power but also a means by which God choose to bring comfort and relieve suffering from grief.

What should we take away from this view into the heart of Jesus and God during a person’s journey of grief? First, I think that we need to realize that no two people will grieve the same or walk through grief the same way or receive comfort from the same things because no two of us are alike. I have met many others on their journey of grief, some from a loss of spouse, a child or a parent. There are some similar and basic components of grief but that is where the similarities end and even in those basic components, people will differ dramatically in their experience of them.

The second and most important thing is that Jesus met them on their journey right where they were and walked with them. We tend to fall into this mindset that the people who can best help others are the ones who have been in situation themselves. That is simply not true. The biggest comfort, help and solace that we have had in the past two years have been a handful of friends, who have never experienced a loss of this magnitude. People who have sat and cried with me, listened to me scream, yell and curse, and checked on me during my periods of quietness. They have encouraged me, talked of my love for Travis and his love for me, highlighted ways that I am successful in single parenting and how proud not only they are of me, but God and Travis are as well. In all of those times, the past 24 months, they have constantly said to me, “I don’t know what to say. I cannot possibly imagine what you are going through but I promise you this. I am not going anywhere. No matter how dark this journey gets, no matter how ugly it gets, I am here to stay and I will walk with you no matter what.”

It breaks my heart to get emails and FB messages from people saying that they know someone who lost a husband and would I be willing to talk to them or give them advice. My response back to them is usually something like this:

“The best thing you can do is allow yourself to be uncomfortable. To look someone else’s grief and suffering in the face and choose to get close to it. To not offer cliches or explanations but simply to choose to allow the journey to happen. To choose to walk this journey with them, no matter how dark and how ugly it gets, would be the greatest way you could ever love them.”

I think that was what Jesus was doing. I think that is what He would want us to do. I think that is how He wants us to love others. Not by words, but by actions.

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4 Comments

  1. Sheila Buck-Cannon said,

    July 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    beautifully said Tammy!

  2. Deborah said,

    July 25, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    Tammy, love you and your family! I respect and admire the committment to this journey you and the kids are on. To not dismiss the pain and try to bury it, but to walk through it all, no matter how difficult it is! Thank you for sharing your journey with me!

  3. Dana Hope said,

    July 25, 2013 at 3:18 pm

    I hope my response to your earlier post is not a platitude. If I lived near you, I would definitely be showing you my love in action. Because I don’t, I can only offer you my words and I hope they are sensitive because I would never want to hurt you with them. My heart is to comfort and love and care for you in your grief. I am truly sorry for your loss and wish there was something I could do. I can and will pray though.

  4. Angela Ramsey said,

    July 25, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Love you and your family, sister. Love and saddened by these photos they make me smile and cry at the same time. Your words are beautiful, transparent and wise.


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