When our teaching team decided to embark on our current sermon series, we recognized that we would touch some deep nerves and possibly some very sensitive places in people’s hearts through the messages. Any time we talk about our painful experiences, we open up the door for those hurts to surface again, and that can be a painful situation all on its own. Old wounds that we thought were healed all of a sudden feel fresh again. Old scars that remind us of past cuts twinge with a freshly remembered loss.
I knew that was going to happen for other people. I didn’t realize how it would happen for me.
I know some of you were sitting near me on Sunday, so it may not be news to you that when I sat down after the music had ended, I sat down with tears already filling my eyes. And as Jason opened the message with the remembrance of his grandfather’s death, I felt the tears start down my cheeks. I know I’m not alone with that, because I could hear the other sniffling sounds of runny noses around me, and many of you mentioned after the service how deeply emotional the whole service was.
Interestingly enough, the emotion I felt was not simply tied to my own losses, but to the stories of other losses that I knew were sitting around me. It was the grief of the people who had lost children, or lost parents at a much younger age than I did, or who had watched loved ones struggle with sicknesses that brought them to the brink of death before pulling them back. I wept because there was something beautiful about listening to the story of Jesus weeping at the grave of Lazarus, something comforting in knowing that he had felt the bubbling pit of grief that wells up within our souls from time to time in this world.
The comfort was not only in knowing that Jesus wept like I have wept, however. As Jason drove towards the end of his message I kept thinking about the response that Jesus was after from Mary and Martha and the other mourners, and from me and you in our own turns. He was looking for faith, for trust in him that would see past the immediate losses to remember that God was still good. He wanted them to know this was true even though he delayed before coming to Bethany to meet them. He wanted them to know he was good even though Lazarus had died and he could have prevented it. And when he raised Lazarus from the dead, the goal was still the faith and trust of the people who saw it. Some of them responded as Jesus had hoped they would, and others walked away with hearts even harder than before.
The question for me (and maybe for you) is whether or not I will learn to trust Jesus’ goodness even when my pain fogs the glass through which I look. The tears in my eyes Sunday morning were a gift of grace to me, a reminder that God is still good to me, even when I lose what I love. Sunday renewed my faith and trust in a gracious God and I hope to keep that in mind when the next opportunity for my trust to grow appears.