Devotions

When Jesus Cries With You

June 9, 2021
“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. … Jesus wept.” John 11:32-33, 35 (NIV)
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I’m pushing a grocery cart through the freezer aisle when my phone rings.

My heart jumps into my throat.

I’ve been waiting for days for this call, so crowded aisle or not, I answer.

She talks fast, pulling-off-a-Band-Aid style, like if she says it fast, it won’t hurt so much. But this is no Band-Aid, and this wound is never going to heal.

Memory loss … progressive … still early …

I know too much to be fooled by the might-not-be and the it’s-too-soon-to-panic statements. I hear all the things she can't bring herself to say. We’ve been begging God to spare our loved one this diagnosis, but this is a resounding “no.”

I stand rooted, numb. Time is frozen — I am frozen — in the frozen-food aisle. People shoulder past me, some shooting me irritated glances. How could they know the woman blocking their way is a daughter in mourning?

We all have “no” stories: times when hopes flew and prayers pleaded, but God said “no.” And in those times, it can be tempting to doubt God’s heart and to question His love. But Lamentations 3:33 assures us, “… [God] does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone” (NIV).

That’s the truth we need to know when we’re hurting, isn’t it? When life knocks us down, tramples us under a thousand stampeding feet, we need to know that God doesn’t desire this pain for us. He isn’t up in heaven indifferent or — worse — secretly gloating.

In my mind, no moment depicts this truth more poignantly than when Jesus stood with Mary and Martha outside the tomb of their brother, Lazarus. When Lazarus fell ill, Jesus could have rushed to heal His friend, but instead He intentionally delayed His coming.

When Jesus finally arrived, several days too late, He met the mourning sisters at the tomb. Jesus already had the happy ending planned. He knew that in mere minutes, He would call Lazarus back to life. The sisters’ cries of mourning would turn to shouts of praise.

And yet. With all that joy only moments away, Jesus stopped. He stood there beside — I always picture Him between — these two sisters, and He wept with them.

I’ve heard people speculate all kinds of profound reasons for Jesus’ tears. Why would Jesus cry, knowing He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead? There must be more to the tears than empathy. Jesus must have been weeping for the lost world, or mourning His own impending suffering.

In my view, those theories are trying too hard. Way too hard. I suspect it’s as simple as this: Jesus’ friends were hurting, so Jesus was hurting. In His tears, I hear these words: “I’m sorry I had to let you go through this. I see your anguish, and My heart bleeds with yours.” It didn’t matter that the pain was almost over. The pain still mattered.

Do you see what this means? Jesus hurts with us. Even if He knows better days are coming, He hurts with us today — right here, right now. Wherever we are: at a desk or in the car, beside a hospital bed or a gravestone. He meets us in our present-tense pain — stands with us, weeps with us, mourns with us. Because our pain is real, and our pain is His pain.

Now that’s love. That’s a God I can trust when I’m hurting. That’s a God I can lean on even when He doesn’t give me what I ask.

Confidence in God’s love changes everything about how we suffer:

We go from suffering alone to suffering while wrapped in the strong, comforting arms of the Father.

Our tears still fall, but they fall on broad shoulders.

Our cries still sound, but they are heard. They may even be accompanied by cries of His own.

God loves you forever and for always.

Even when He says “no.”

Father, thank You for meeting us in our heartache and for hurting with us. Please help me to see and feel Your compassion even when life is painful. I trust Your love. I trust Your heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

OUR FAVORITE THINGS

To find hope in heartache, pick up a copy of Elizabeth Laing Thompson’s new book, When God Says “No”: Facing Disappointment and Denial Without Losing Heart, Losing Hope, or Losing Your Head. Or visit Elizabeth at her website, ElizabethLaingThompson.com.

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FOR DEEPER STUDY

Lamentations 3:32-33, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.” (NIV)

Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted …” (NIV)

How has God already comforted you through heartache? What makes you feel loved by your Father when you are hurting?

© 2021 by Elizabeth Laing Thompson. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Barbour Publishing for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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