On December 26th of last year, just hours after my wife, her family and I went to sleep on Christmas night, we awoke to devastating, life-altering news. My wife’s 23 year old brother, Jordan, had lost his life. This came less than a year after my wife’s Aunt Cathy and Uncle Mark lost their 20 year old son, Carson.
As a kid, I lost a few older family members, but when I became an adult and close family and friends started to pass away, I began to process these experiences based on what I knew about God and faith.
One question I kept coming back to was this: If we believe that we will see our loved ones again someday, if we believe that all of eternity will make life on earth seem short, like the blink of an eye, if death truly is a “see you later” rather than “goodbye,” then why do we grieve so deeply; why does it hurt so badly? This can be especially troubling
when you consider that in his letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul asked “Where, oh death, is your sting?”
Where, oh death, is your sting?!?! IT’S RIGHT HERE! THE STING IS RIGHT HERE AND IT HURTS LIKE HELL!
The morning that Jordan died, we all gathered at my wife’s grandparents’ house. We originally thought that we would be celebrating Christmas together, as the 25th hadn’t worked out for everyone. Instead, we spent the day grieving. It was good for us to be together; we cried, talked and gave hugs. Mark and Cathy were there and were a distinct comfort to all of us, especially my in-laws. At one point Cathy said “I know that Carson is with Jesus now, and that he’s okay, and not hurting, but I don’t care. I want him here with me,” and I thought- “That’s it! That’s why it hurts so badly.” Because even though we may have great faith, even though at some point this life may seem like a distant memory, right now it is not. Right now the minutes pass slowly and 40, 60, or 80 years without people we love feels like such a very long time; it feels like forever.
God never intended for us to be stoic supermen and women void of human emotions, or even worse, live some kind of Stepford Wife existence in which we are happy and smiling in the midst of our hearts being ripped out, all because of some misplaced notion that God is exalted by horrific tragedies.
So for now, I trust that Paul knew what he was talking about, and perhaps someday I will understand it on a deeper level. But today I’m comforted by Jesus himself. I remember that when Lazarus, Jesus’s close friend, “the one [he] loved so very much,” had died, Jesus wept. It’s almost as if we hear Jesus thinking “Wow, that does hurt.” He wasn’t just crying, he was weeping. Weeping is more than tears, it’s deeper, it’s ugly, your whole body convulses. It is the outward manifestation of what is going on inside the heart.
That image is important, because if I can see Jesus weeping there in front of Lazarus’s tomb, then it’s easier to see him weeping with me, with us.