About a month ago I sent the following sign to my friend whose husband is currently out of work for the second time.
I think I sent it because I’ve been there and it expressed the sentiment I so desperately wanted to be true when we were writing that chapter in our own lives. If you’ve never been out of work, the chapter has the following subtitles: How long? What affect will this have on our family? Will anyone else employ me? What kind of loser am I and why did I never know I was a loser before now? What about insurance? How will we pay our bills? What if the house doesn’t sell? What if the house does sell?
And you keep repeating, “It’s going to be okay.” Then you will yourself to believe it. After all, it’s the Christian thing to do right? It’s much like saying, “I’ve read the end of the book and WE WIN!” And while I haven’t spent a whole lot of time reading the end of the book (mostly because it just confuses me so I’ve decided to just be ready) I do know it’s true.
But then there are the todays when I wrestle with the “It’s going to be okay” cheer-up philosophy. Because some things in life just never feel like they will be okay. And I wonder if we do ourselves and our friends a disservice when we, in essence, smack them on the back and tell them not to make us uncomfortable with their struggle or their sorrow…because, honestly, it’s just easier to be around people who laugh a lot and have the world by the tail.
And then you hear about the parent(s) who just lost their child. When is it going to be okay for them? You can talk out loud to your computer screen if you want to…when.is.it.going.to.be.okay? I’ve seen it provide incredible avenues of ministry for those parents, but okay? It’s never okay.
And you meet the child whose monster father kept coming into her bedroom at night. Does “I’ve read the end of the book and we win!” fix that?…ever?
Enter the infertile woman who can’t bear to even show up at church on Mother’s Day for the passing out of the marigold and petunia seeds because every seed is a reminder of what never took root in her.
This year, in nine months’ time, I watched my brother-in-law and sister-in-law lose all four of their parents. They really aren’t okay.
And the neighbor-become-friend whose 50+ parents were both killed when their plane crashed and burned. Believers? Absolutely! Okay? That would be a “no.”
Maybe your spouse destroyed your dreams of a happily-ever-after when news of their unfaithfulness rocked your world.
And the beat goes on…childhood cancer, brain cancer, ALS, children who walk away from faith, accidents with life altering injuries, friends who betray.
I’ve always struggled with the balance between “With Jesus I’m okay” and “I’m really not okay.”
Today that struggle took me straight to the story of Lazarus. To make a long story short, Lazarus died. Jesus friend Lazarus, the one He loved a lot. Dead. And when Jesus got to the hometown of Lazarus He found that Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were not okay.
Martha got to Jesus first and He told her, “Your brother will rise again.” Or, in today’s language, “It’s going to be okay.” I wonder if He patted her on the back. Then Mary found Him and the very exchange that we laughed about as kids is the one that speaks straight to me as an adult.
You remember, as kids, how it went. “Memorize a scripture verse by next week.” And who of us didn’t come back at least once with John 11:35? JESUS WEPT. Shortest verse in the Bible. Least effort. Finished that assignment in record time.
An assignment that is maybe the best example of He became flesh and moved into the neighborhood. (John 1:14 MSG) The neighborhood. My house. Your house. Moved in.
Here is what grips me. So often I have felt that if I’m not okay then I’m not a very trusting Christian. I even think we tell each other that at times. But here, right here in the book of John, Jesus weeps with Mary in her sorrow. In essence he says to her, “It’s okay that you aren’t okay. I’m here and it’s still okay that you aren’t okay. And I’ll be not-okay with you.”
What I love about it most is that Jesus knew He was there to raise Lazarus from the dead, there to make things okay; yet He still took time to weep with Mary over the loss of her brother and His friend. Her sorrow mattered that much to Him.
Another part of The Story reminds me that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Yesterday He wept with Mary in her pain and loss.
Today? He weeps with you in your pain. More than anyone, He knows how the story ends. The ending is good. Still, today, He weeps with you.
Be comforted my friend. He weeps…with you.