“You should write books.” “God is saying that one day you’ll be published.” “I see novels coming out of you.” I have been told this countless times. But here’s the problem: I never write. I do feel like it’s supposed to be part of who I am; I just never do it.
It’s time to change that, I hope.
I recently turned 40, and I realize that there are huge gaps between who I want to be/what I want to accomplish and who I actually am/how I spend my time.
All that to say, I’m going to make an effort to start writing this blog again and doing podcasts. I may have to change the title and description, because it may no longer be about just the things I’m reading/watching/listening to. If you read it, and you like it, please help me figure out how to make it look nicer and market it and all that, because I know nearly nothing about that.
So that’s that. But here is what I have been thinking about this morning.
As most of you probably know, it has been a summer filled with tragedy for us. On June 22, two close friends, Stephen and Mandy, were killed in a freak accident coming back to Sheffield from a wedding. Not only they were friends, but they were both central to our work here, and their deaths threw our whole life plan out the window and forced us in many ways to start over.
Amongst many other things, I’ve been thinking a lot about faith during these months of grieving. The first day after finding out was an intense one, as we felt the shock of the loss as well as the desire to believe by faith for a miracle. And in our community, there was a wide range of reaction, as you would expect. There were those who seemed shocked, on the verge of offended, that anyone wanted to even ask for resurrection. There were those who, though also shocked, primarily saw it as an opportunity for God to move, and were pushing in the Spirit, aggressively pursuing the miracle. And there was me, and others, who were all over the place, wanting to support those with high faith but not necessarily feeling it ourselves.
I always, always, always want to ask God for the impossible and believe that He can, will, and still does it. I know He does. I’ve seen Him do the impossible with my own two eyes.
I was reflecting on this recently in connection with John 11, which contains that most famous shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.” And something struck me that I had not noticed before. Are you ready?
Jesus starts the story away from Bethany. He has gotten word that Lazarus is ill. The disciples know this. They suggest a visit. Jesus delays, and eventually tells them, by word of knowledge (one of the spiritual gifts), that actually, Lazarus has died. And they are going to Bethany so that Jesus can wake Lazarus up. From the dead.
He reaches Bethany, and has two subsequent and similar encounters with Martha and then Mary. Both are mourning and showing, in their own ways, trust that Jesus could have done something had He come earlier and that maybe He could still do something now. Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will live again…she deflects His comment with a, “Yeah…if you mean in heaven, I know he will.”
Then Jesus goes to the tomb Himself. And it is there, moved by the grief of His two friends and the sight of their brother’s burial spot and just probably the whole human condition of having to regularly deal with death in all its forms that Jesus breaks down and cries. He stands there, weeping.
Here’s why this is important to me and what it teaches me: remember, Jesus knows what is about to happen. He knows that He will raise Lazarus up in mere minutes. He has known it for awhile–He has announced it, He’s getting ready to do it. He has the faith. It’s about to happen. And yet, He still cries.
This shows me that faith doesn’t have to be full of joy and confidence. I can approach a situation with faith that God is going to move in it and still mourn and wail over the bleakness of the situation. Jesus here shows His humanity, and oh how we need Him to be both God and human.
In fact, and I want to study this a bit in Scripture to see if I can back it up, I kind of suspect that in some way God honours our faith more if we really enter into the emotions and world and pain of the person we are praying for. If we empathize. If we show compassion–that is, literally, if we suffer with them. As I think back through Jesus’ many miracles, it feels like He takes each case individually, and heals them in a way that will be the most loving and helpful to them. He sees them. He enters in.
Jesus wept. Even in the midst of one of His most powerful miracles, He wept. He mourned with those who mourned, and then rejoiced with those who rejoiced.
Help me, Lord, to approach each situation in the same way. Help me not to use faith as a shelter against the pain of living in this world, but as doorway into the lives of hurting people, to bring them the help and healing they need.