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Through the tears

I think we can give God the silent treatment without realizing it. We hurt, so we pray, but God doesn’t always save us from the pain. Hearts break, plans fail, we fall, and people die. We groan inside. We know God could have prevented what causes us such grief, or make it better, at least. But for whatever reason, we bleed.

We remain kind to him, but distant. We stand, but we don’t lift our hands. We pray, but we don’t praise. We are polite when all we want to do is fight until things are made right. We don’t confront him with our questions. Does our pain matter as much to him as his reasons? And if he cared as much, wouldn’t he spare us?

God might be the only one to break our heart for the better, but that doesn’t mean it hurts any less.

I keep thinking of the story of Lazarus. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus when their dear brother was on his death bed because they knew Jesus loved him as much as they did, and he could make him better. Jesus said, “This will not end in death, but in glory” and then delayed until Lazarus was dead for four days. When he finally arrived, Mary stayed inside and cried, but Martha ran outside and confronted the Son of God, “If you had been here…”

Jesus gives her a promise, much like he does with us, but Martha’s comment implies that it wasn’t enough. Jesus promised again, “This will not end in death, but in glory,” and Martha responds that she already knows he’ll live in the end, but she was hoping he’d be alive in this moment. We too believe in God’s promises, but feel desperate for them in the present. Jesus replies by reminding her who he is. He is resurrection and life, and he asks her if she believes him despite death, and she says yes.

He calls for Mary, the one who loved to sit at his feet and listen, and now she fell at his feet and wept, “Jesus, if you had been here…” Jesus knew full well that he was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew it was all for the best. But instead of repeating his promise, he was overwhelmed with the brokenness of that moment. He loved Mary, so he felt what she felt. He was deeply moved, and he wept. He saw Lazarus’ tomb, and he mourned. He too was torn.


We assume that since God knows the glory of the future, he forgets the pain of the present. But he is ever present. He is the truest kind of friend. He involves himself intimately in our experience. We can have tearful conversations and ask him the desperate questions. Though he is in complete control, he becomes completely vulnerable. Just because he is over it all doesn’t mean he’s not under it all. His Spirit in us feels our laughter and our tears. His heart aches with ours. We have no fear he has not felt or tear he has not wept. He bears our scars on his arms.

God has entered into our human experience. He embodied himself in our flesh to bleed with us, to bleed for us. He drank our cup of suffering to the very last drop. He has not forgotten.

God has experienced our condition in a way we never will. We don’t have to convince him by being downcast or distant. He understands. Because he validates how deeply we break, we can laugh with him without betraying our pain. We can dance in the rain. Since God cries when we cry, we can smile with him through the tears.

And through the tears of our trial he does smile, just like he did when he raised Lazarus from the dead, when he said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Psalm 46:1-3

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