Theatre gal now working in full-time ministry. Here to encourage you as you figure out a life lived pursuing Jesus.
There’s an emotion that has been haunting me for the last year. I swat it away as much as I can, but soon it returns, buzzing in my ear like a gnat.
We’ve all felt it, haven’t we? When the COVID numbers start to climb again. When another violent attack happens. When door after door is shut and it feels like we may never get out of this season.
In my heart, I know God is sovereign. I believe that He cares for me and all of His children and that He sits in control. But sometimes I feel utterly beaten. I see the numbers, read the news, hear of another loss. I find myself caught in the tension of knowing I serve a good God and seeing Him allow so much grief and turmoil.
My soul aches for a peace so tangible I could knit it into a sweater and let it envelop me in its warmth.
Every once in a while, I catch myself losing hope. I’m overwhelmed and can’t find the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m weary. I want to feel like I can take a deep breath again (and not just because I can finally stop wearing a mask).
If you’re in the same boat, then hi, hello, welcome to the party. Can I pour you a drink? Let’s say cheers and then have a good cry together. Get it out of our systems. Then let’s dry our eyes and talk about this. I find talking through our ugly feelings is like salve to the soul.
I think faith is often more muddled and messy than we care to admit. We want things to be cut and dry, black and white. We want all the certainty and none of the pain. However, I’m starting to see that these two things often share the same space. I can acknowledge that Jesus is Lord while sitting in grief and frustration.
Just look at the story of Lazarus’ resurrection.
Mary and Martha not only knew Jesus as their Savior but also as a friend. When their brother Lazarus was sick, they sent word to Him right away. I bet they thought, We don’t need to worry. Jesus will come. He cares for us. He’ll make it alright.
And then a day passed.
And yet another.
Jesus showed up four days after Lazarus had already died. He knew the situation, and yet He waited to act. I can’t even imagine the confusion, grief, and disappointment those sisters were feeling.
When word gets around that Jesus has made it to Bethany, Martha meets him outside of the village. Something that has always struck me is that Mary doesn’t go with her sister. Scripture says she stayed sitting at the house (John 11:12). The woman who scrubbed the feet of Jesus with her own hair couldn’t muster the will to meet Him face to face.
It was only until Jesus asked her to come that Mary went to see Him.
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died’” (John 11:32). Wow. Her words are so few, but I feel the undercurrent of anger and grief in her subtext.
Where were you?
You should have been here.
We needed you, and you didn’t come.
Mary is holding two concepts in the same space: 1. The acknowledgment of the power and authority of Christ, and 2. The frustration of His inaction. Or, at least, what she perceives to be inaction. In other words, she says, “You could have changed this, but you chose not to.”
I think all of us are caught in this tension at one point or another.
Part of this conflict comes from being in a broken world. Grief and pain are unavoidable. Yet some tragedies feel so unnecessary, don’t they?
I can’t explain them. I won’t even attempt to make sense of the suffering in the world. It’s not my place.
But there’s a truth that overrides the confusion. It’s what the story of Lazarus reminds us of. John Mark Comer eloquently summarizes it this way: “Because in the way of Jesus, death is always followed by resurrection.”
Death isn’t left at death when it comes to Christ. He firmly established that precedent when He left an empty tomb behind Him. We, too, experience this death to life process, even now. As Paul said in his letter to the churches of Galatia: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20a). Death gives way to something far greater.
However, we can’t escape the reality of the darkness and depravity around us. At times, it’s overwhelming. I wish I always felt the deep, supernatural presence of Christ in all of my dark moments. If I’m honest, I don’t. Sometimes He feels absent. It’s okay to be honest about that for two reasons:
When you give your life to Jesus, you don’t suddenly feel like you’re hooked into a supernatural IV 24/7. That would be lovely, but that’s just not the case. I’m not always “high on the Spirit,” as some of my charismatic friends might say. (Do y’all say that?)
But I believe that Scripture is true, and it tells me that I am the temple of God, housing His Spirit within my very body. So, even though my physical being does not receive the affirmation it desires, even though I don’t always feel like Jesus is with me, I can tether my mind to something far stronger than my emotions: truth. That is what my hope is grounded in.
I don’t mean that in the “repent for the end is near” kind of way, though I do believe our homeboy will return. I mean that I fully believe if you keep waiting, Jesus will meet you in your hopelessness. Like Mary, He’ll call your name and beckon you to see Him.
If you go to see Him, and I hope you do, you have permission to throw yourself to the ground, openly weep and ask Him, “Where were you?” We’re allowed to ask Him our hard questions.
I don’t know what He’ll do, honestly. In John 11, we see Him mourn with His friends. He knew Lazarus was going to be resurrected. He knew a miracle was about to happen, yet He still mourned. I hope your own miracle occurs. But I know that every story is different. No matter what, I hope that you see His compassion, how He knows your pain, and meets you in your weakness.
Eugene Peterson paraphrases the author of Hebrews beautifully in saying, “We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all–all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help” (Hebrews 4:15-16, The Message).
These are hard days, friend. It’s easy to feel buried by the weight of fear. That doesn’t mean fear wins, though.
So, now that we’ve hashed that out, let’s go see Jesus, shall we? He’s calling your name. Consider me your Martha, whispering in your ear, “The Teacher is asking for you.”
Unplug. Stop listening to the news for a minute. Find some solitude, if you can, and lay out your grief before Him. I don’t know what will happen in that moment. That’s between you and Jesus. But I can’t think of a better place to be than at His feet.