Back in high school, I was at a memorial service for the son of one of my former principals. The officiant, I believe he was a rabbi, began to ask for good memories of the son, when the father's voice bellowed, "My son is dead, I don't need good memories."
Pain and suffering often come, and our knee jerk reaction is to try and fix it. As I've gone through the fire, people have given me the "silver lining" constantly.
"At least your family wasn't hurt."
"At least you'll get a new kitchen."
"Be thankful for what you do have."
All of those things are true. And I think, at times, those words were helpful. But more often than not, I hated them. It felt like an inconsequential, "look on the bright side," when all I could feel was sadness and frustration. I wanted to weep, and I wanted to be wept with.
As I look at my own life, and how I've responded to those who suffer and are in pain, I wonder how frequently I've done the same to others. It makes me wonder why I seek to fix the pain and cheer people up. I can't begin to understand the hearts of others, but I can certainly discern my own. And, if I'm honest with myself, I think I don't weep with others because it's too uncomfortable. I want to escape the pain of weeping, so fixing it becomes the better option. And if I fix the problem, not only do I not have to weep, I can pat myself on the back for being a good person!
However, Jesus, the perfect and most mature man to ever walk the earth, knew that humans were more complex than that. He would know after all, He was with God the Father in our original design. In John 11 we see a captivating scene. Jesus receives word that his friend Lazarus is sick. Instead of going to him immediately, he stays an extra two days. The text even says that Lazarus' illness was for the sake of God's glory, which means his delay was intentional so that God would be praised.
So, Lazarus dies. Jesus then finally comes to raise him from the dead, four days after his death. Martha meets him first, and Jesus tells her truth, that He is the resurrection and the life. He shares what's true. However, He doesn't do the same with Mary. He gets to her and asks where Lazarus has been laid. And when he goes to see the tomb, he weeps! Jesus, the God of the universe, the one who knowingly let Lazarus die just so he could raise him from the dead so that he might be glorified, weeps! Why?
Tim Keller says it this way: "To show that He was a perfect man." Keller added this afterwards, "In this we see that the most mature are those who weep, and those who weep with others."
This profoundly changes my understanding in how I love those who suffer. While Jesus ultimately "fixes" the situation (which, He is the only one who really can when it comes to death), He doesn't neglect grief or mourning. He enters into it. He feels the anguish and agony. Even when He knows the truth. Even when He has the power to fix everything.
May this be an example to those of us who don't have that power.
If I've learned anything through grief, it's that the most valuable and beautiful times are not when someone just tells me that good times are ahead, to be thankful for something, or anything else like that. It's when someone has chosen to get into the pit with me, listen, and mourn. It's then that I am far more open to truth and grace, because someone has manifested it in how they've approached me.
But, praise God, because even in our most imperfect attempts to love, there is a savior who embodied love to us. He didn't just weep, but He went to the grave. Even when we are loved imperfectly, we have a perfect lover who stands with us, and a perfect redeemer empowering us to become like Him to those who mourn.