~ John 11:33-35
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I love this story of Lazarus, his death, his sisters' grief, and the overwhelming presence of those who loved him. There is so much to love in this story: the characters, the realness, the depth, the grief, the miracle.
Mary was the sister of Lazarus, the same woman who poured perfurme on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. She is presented as one of the most pure examples of authentic worship in the Bible, one who could not keep herself from giving everything, pouring out her best, withholding nothing.
And yet Jesus allowed her beloved brother to die; this seems to show that pain isn't one big game of cause and effect. It's not 'if only she had worshipped more, given God everything, Mary's brother would have lived.' It's not that. I don't think he was testing her to see if she would still praise him.
This relieves me of the wonder that God is vindictive, trying to see how much my faith can stand. While I seek to cling to him, to learn from him, to experience an encounter only he can bring, this is his blessing for me. But I don't believe he took Robb away in exchange for more worship from me. He is teaching me as I walk this path, but I truly believe Robb's death was not the goal.
Instead, I believe this holy intimacy is the gift.
What I love most in this scene is Jesus' response. He watches them grieving and wailing. It's easy for me to imagine this; I know what it looks like, quite personally. It's loud and raw, wrenching and horrible.
And Jesus joined them. "Then Jesus wept." He was 'moved with indignation' and 'deeply troubled.'
Moments later, he would raise Lazarus from the dead, all for his glory, so that they could see and believe Jesus had been sent by God. But even though he knew their relief would come soon, his heart ached for them. His heart broke.
In that moment, in the depths of their grief, he joined them. He wept too.
I think he was personally pained by the grief of his people, the deep grief of death. He knew how it would end, and yet he cried tears of compassion. He cried for their sadness. He is close to the broken hearted, near to the crushed in spirit.
I think God has been showing me recently that he's sad too.
I feel like he is showing me that his desire for marriage is that it never be separated, not by divorce, not by death, not at all.
I think none of this is what he wanted - the sadness, grief, separation, loss, death.
I believe he knew it would happen all along, but it's not what he wanted. I wonder what he thought on our wedding day, as we said our vows 'til death do us part,' as he knew that separation would come sooner than we could imagine.
I wonder what he thought as Robb recovered from the accident that ruptured his spleen when he was fourteen; I was ten years old. The absence of his spleen made Robb further susceptible to complications that would eventually take his life; I wonder if God thought of me, a fifth grader, and how this accident would alter the course of my adult life.
While I believe he knew it would happen according to his sovereign will, I believe none of this fallenness is what he wanted for his creation.
I believe he will redeem it, that there will be beauty from these ashes, and that this swallowing grief will not indeed swallow me whole.
And in the meantime, as I walk this lonely path that pulls me deeper still, I believe he is sad too.
Perhaps he is weeping alongside me.
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O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63: 1, 3, 7-8