Devotions

Please Don’t Give Me a Packaged Christian Answer

July 14, 2022
“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (NIV)
d7.14-22

I love Jesus. I love God. I love His Truth. I love people. But I don’t love packaged Christian answers.

Those cliches tie everything up in a nice, neat bow and make life a little too tidy. But there just isn’t anything tidy about some awful and sad and so incredibly evil things that happen in our broken world.

And God help me if I think I’m going to make things better by thinking up a clever Christian saying to add to all the dialogue. God certainly doesn’t need people like me — with limited perspectives, limited understanding and limited depth — trying to make sense of things that only make sense to Him.

Is there a place for God’s Truth in all this? Absolutely. But we must, must, must let God direct us. In His time. In His way. In His love. And when things are awful, perhaps we should just say, "This is awful.” When things don’t make sense, we can’t shy away from simply saying,“This doesn’t make sense.”

There is a difference between a wrong word at the wrong time, and a right word at the right time.

When my little sister died a horribly tragic death, it was because a doctor prescribed some medication no child should ever be given. And it set off a chain of events that eventually found my family standing over a pink, rose-draped casket. Weeping. Hurting. Needing time to wrestle with grief and anger and loss.

And it infuriated my raw soul when people tried to sweep up the shattered pieces of our lives by saying things like, “Well, God just needed another angel in heaven.” Besides being off base theologically, statements like that took the shards of my grief and twisted them even more deeply into my already broken heart.

I understand why they said things like this. They wanted to say something — anything — to make it better. Their compassion compelled them to come close. And I wanted them there. And then I didn’t.

Everything was a contradiction. I could be crying hysterically one minute and laughing the next. And then I’d feel so awful for daring to laugh that I wanted to cuss. And then sing a praise song. I wanted to shake my fist at God and then read His Scriptures for hours. There’s just nothing tidy about all that.

But the thing I know now that I wish I knew then is that Jesus understands what it is like to deeply feel human emotions like grief and heartbreak.

We see this in John 11:32-35 when Jesus received the news His dear friend Lazarus had died:

“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 [Lazarus] 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. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept” (NIV).

Yes, Jesus wept and mourned with His loved ones in that devastatingly heartbreaking moment. And the fact that He can identify with my pain is so comforting to me. He meets us in our grief. And we can bring the hope He promises and the comfort He supplies when others are grieving too.

You want to know the best thing someone said to me in the middle of my grief?

I was standing in the midst of all the tears falling down on black dresses and black suits on that gray funeral day. My heels were sinking into the grass. I was staring down at an ant pile. The ants were running like mad around a footprint that had squashed their home. I was wondering if I stood in that pile and let them sting me a million times if maybe that pain would distract me from my soul pain. At least I knew how to soothe physical pain.

Suddenly this little pigtailed girl skipped by me and exclaimed, “I hate ants.” And that was hands-down the best thing anyone said that day.

She just entered in right where I was. Noticed where I was focused in that moment and just said something basic. Normal. Obvious.

Yes, there is a place for a solid Christian answer from well-intentioned friends. Absolutely. But then there’s also a place to weep with a hurting friend from the depths of your soul. A time when there really aren’t any words that can help the pain.

May God help us to know the difference.

Dear Lord, I know You are the only One who can bring comfort to seemingly impossible situations. Thank You for comforting me in my pain so I can comfort others in their pain. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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FOR DEEPER STUDY

Romans 12:15-16a, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” (NIV)

Who is someone in your life who you could “live in harmony with” today? Maybe it’s a friend who needs someone to sit with them in their heartache. Or maybe they need a friend to bring laughter or surprise them with their favorite treat. Share your thoughts in the comments!

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