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!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” John 11:33-37 (ESV)
You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. Psalm 56:8-9 (ESV)
“Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible, and we all may know it because it was the easiest verse to memorize. I knew the context in which the verse exists, but it wasn’t until recently that the verse became more than a well-known factoid; it became a profound truth of my faith.
My young son, who was weary from an abundance of failed medical procedures, became angry and emotionally voiced his concern that God wasn’t listening to our prayers and questioned why God would allow such pain. He drew a picture of a broken heart to show us how he felt.
I had been where he was, and when I spoke to him of God’s great plan and love for us, it was through the experiential lens of the same doubt and despair.
“There was a man in the Bible, and Jesus didn’t show up for four days, and the man died! What was He thinking,” he painfully asked.
I then explained that the Bible tells us exactly what was happening in the story of Lazarus: Jesus was going to glorify God by demonstrating His power over death—something even greater than the ability to heal sickness. God was going to be glorified through Lazarus in a huge way! My little boy was unimpressed—too young to understand the concept of a “bigger picture” but acutely aware of pain.
Then, the Lord whispered a huge truth in my heart: God cares. Jesus knew what was going to happen to Lazarus. He knew Lazarus would live again. He knew the pain would be short-lived. Because of the pain of death, God would be glorified through Lazarus in a way that healing his sickness never could. Knowing all of these truths, however, didn’t make Jesus aloof to the pain of those He loved.
When Jesus saw the people hurting, He wept with them.
I took my son’s hand, and with tears in both of our eyes, I pulled him close and explained the profound truth of the shortest verse in the Bible. “We don’t always understand why God acts the way He does, but we can always trust that He is doing it for His and our best, and we can always know that He cares for us, and He hurts when we do. He isn’t happy when we hurt.”
A few minutes later, he brought us a picture of a heart only half broken; a few minutes after that, he made another picture of a heart—this time it was whole. He needed to know that God cared. The truth is, so did I.
Maybe you do, too. Maybe your kids do, too. The reality is that those of us who read this know the incredible joys of obedience, but we also know the shadows of the valleys more than we’d like. Walking through those times, know that God cares; He does not take our tears lightly; He is for us. Plant those truths solidly in your heart, and even when it is breaking, He can make it whole.
Written by Jenny Riddle
*This article will also be appearing in our Journey Alumni magazine.
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