“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.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said,“Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
~ John 11:32-36
It has always struck me how Jesus responded when his good friends Mary and Martha let Him know about Lazarus: “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” He didn’t jump up and run out the door. He didn’t act surprised. Instead, Scripture says that he stayed in the place where he was for two more days.
His reason? “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” He knew His Father’s intended outcome for Lazarus to be raised from the dead, that God might be glorified.
But his friends did not know this. When He finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had died and his friends were mourning. Martha said, “Lord, if you would have been here my brother would not have died.”
Instead of giving a cold, unfeeling, religious response like “I know what I’m doing – don’t you have any faith?!” He spent some time with Martha, assuring her with truth, “Your brother will rise again…I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (verses 23 and 25), encouraging her to affirm her faith in Him. And she did, even though she still didn’t understand what Jesus was about to do.
He wept with His friends Mary and Martha not because He didn’t know why this was happening (He did) nor because He couldn’t do anything about it (He could and He was actually about to in only a few minutes). He wept because He loved them, He loved Lazarus, and He could see and feel their anguish. He shared in their pain.
Jesus cares deeply about the pain of His children. He doesn’t always raise the dead (like He did with Lazarus), He doesn’t always take the pain away – but He does promise never to leave us – even weeping with us and catching our tears when they fall.
Psalm 56:8 says, “You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” He wants to carry us, be our refuge in the midst of our suffering and pain.
He can have genuine compassion because He’s felt it all: rejection, betrayal, abandonment, hatred, deep sorrow, physical pain, torture, and an excruciating death. He understands this fallen world because He’s been here and left us an example to follow in His steps.
We serve a God who, even in His omniscience and sovereignty, weeps with those who weep. And He calls us to do the same: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).”
Sometimes, in the midst of great suffering, there are no answers – no perfect words or instant solutions for the immediate pulsing pain at hand. But there is always the gift of Presence. The warmth of arms wrapped tight around the hurting. The hot wet tears – liquid love – falling in unison with the one you care for will speak more than 1,000 words.
They speak a language all their own:
“I may not hold the remedy to your pain, but I enter it with you.”
“You will not feel this alone. You will not endure this alone. I am here with you.”
We don’t have to live in this world very long to experience pain. And it is likely that you or someone you love is experiencing something very difficult right now.
You may be afraid to be vulnerable – to let your pain become known.
But He is poised with His bottle, ready to catch your tears.
Ready to calm you with His presence.
Ready to bear you up with His love.
Ready to resurrect you, to give you new life.
He is ready, because He is a God who is unashamed to weep with His friends.