We need things to be real enough to give us hope. Life doesn’t always provide a rock thick enough, a song empathetic enough, or a friend close enough to help us deal with life. Life is full of reactionary moments releasing whatever natural emotions shadow us. You cannot walk through life a figurine.
Maybe it’s the artist or dreamer in me, but I’m drawn to people who allow a full moment to overtake them. I’ve seen grooms cry tears of joy the moment they see their bride. I’ve held people, in my arms, when they received news their loved one didn’t make it. I could feel their breath exit their lungs. My arms were a coat rack to which they hung their lifeless body.
As a pastor, I’ve experienced many weekends whereby we marry someone and the following weekend, we are performing a funeral. Life is a full range of emotions. Each chord, from E minor to D sharp, carries an important melody.
Jesus seemed to welcome every emotion. For some folks, “being real” means Jesus can’t be anything like us. He needs to be some distant mystic idea. He was everything like us. He was nothing like us.
In John 11 and 12, Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, is sick. He’s so sick his family thinks he may die. They call for Jesus, but He’s late. Lazarus dies.
The word John uses to describe Jesus emotional state is tarasso. Tarasso is used to describe someone who is troubled, uneasy, or anxious. It is commonly used when someone is afraid of something.
Jesus’ anxiety, uneasiness, and his troubled spirit allowed him to feel like everything was out of control.
Jesus received the news we have all received. The phone call, text message, or social media update that drops us to our knees. Everything suddenly becomes deaf to our ears and our whole life experience is tunnel visioned into that terrible news. Jesus didn’t retreat. He gave himself permission to allow the full weight of the moment to crush him.
What is Jesus grieving?
- He was grieving the loss of friend. An emotional tidal wave probably knocked him on his knees.
- Angered by the fact his own people still doubt His power.
- The weight of the cross is becoming real. He’s in Bethany which is only a few miles from Jerusalem.
What John does for us in this particular statement . . . is to uncover to us the heart of Jesus, as he wins for us our salvation. Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. He has not only saved us from the evils which oppress us; he has felt for and with us in our oppression and under the impulse of these feelings has wrought our redemption . . . Jesus never wavered in his consistent resentment of the special wrong-doing which he was called upon to witness.B.B. Warfield, “The Emotional Life of Our Lord,” The Person and Work of Christ (1912), pp.117,122.
What I’ve learned from suffering:
1. We know the answer to “how far.”
Because Jesus, willingly, goes to the cross, we know how far God will go to suffer. That may satisfy some and infuriate others. I don’t know. If we keep talking about “good and bad,” I don’t know how far we would get. I think the cross gives us something an ethics professor can’t give us, righteousness.
2. Jesus is always crushed when his friends are hurting.
For whatever reason, politeness and programmed answers are acceptable in public and on social media. Displays of emotions are usually met with “Get it together” or “Everything will be fine.” We all process grief in our own way, but it seems like Jesus would rather be with us instead of being over us.
3. Suffer in community.
If pastors keep telling their churches that love is experienced in the context of community then surely tender encouragement is met in community. If you’re suffering, suffer in community. If you’re doubtful, doubt in community.
4. Grieve the living.
I’ve met countless people who are the way they are because of a defining moment or relationship. This experience causes tension between other people. Rather than working through it, we self-medicate our anger, depression, and anxiety with reaffirming our point of view. You may need to write a good-bye letter. You may need to sit down, write out exactly what happened, why that person or experience hurt you, how you are moving forward, and end it by telling them goodbye. Keep that letter to see how the Lord develops you.