Sometimes I forget that my God lives in me. Sometimes I forget that Jesus is who He said He was. I forget all of the little ways that His life and His words and His actions fulfilled so many prophesies. Sometimes in the day-to-day I swim in a sea of unmet expectations and I fail to suffer here well. I give in to self-pity or a list of “I-deserves”, and I miss out on being right there at my Jesus’ feet; at the feet of the One who chose suffering for me.
I was welcomed into an unpopular and undesired club when I lost my mom. One that surely none of us would choose. It is the club of people who have suffered—the ones who know depths of loss and pain. And whether we have lost a child or a parent or our family as we knew it or a spouse or a friend or a dream or the hope of children or the hope of marriage or the career of our dreams—unfortunately (or fortunately) we know how to empathize. We haven’t all felt the exact same feelings of hurt, but we’ve felt hurt nonetheless, and there’s camaraderie in that somehow.
I’m not here to talk about the theology of suffering or even about my suffering, because while I’ve experienced some of it, I can’t pretend to know it all. But since about August, I’ve been studying the book of John, which is an account of Jesus’ life and death. I’ve been humbled and honestly, touched by the beauty of it all. Beauty can have a mask on sometimes. I’ve found this beauty to be in lots of the details that go easily skipped over or missed. But big picture? I’ve realized that sometimes Jesus sends us out into the middle of a huge stormy sea in a tiny boat and asks for us to wait for Him—to trust Him. Sometimes we call on Him in confidence to heal our friend and He shows up four days after he’s already died. There are times when we are paralyzed for thirty-eight years, and it is with our last shred of faith that we dare to believe this so-called Jesus could be our healer.
When the waves of the sea are bound to swallow us up at any moment, when the walls of water feel daunting at best, He promises to sustain us and His voice puts the fierceness of water to a total and complete rest.
Lazarus was lost; family and friends were deep in the throes of grief by the time Jesus showed up. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” were the words of those He loved. But Jesus said to His disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Jesus arrived, wept with His friends, and went to raise up Lazarus to show His great power to save. When He feels absent, and the worst of the worst keeps coming to pass, we get to see the faith we thought was lost grow and deepen because He waited…for us. And we get to feel the presence of our Savior near.
When the years of toil feel unbearable, and we think we can’t suffer for another day on the same mat, with the same paralysis, remember that Jesus may just call you up from your mess, take away your affliction, but ask you to carry that mat so you never forget where He’s rescued you from.
I think the hardest thing about being on this side of heaven is wrapping our minds around the whys and the exhaustion and the weariness of bearing the weight of our fallen world right here on our shoulders. To me though, the sweetest thing that threads through each of Jesus’ miracles, is the power of the presence of Jesus. He is the God who is not unacquainted with our grief. While we were born into this fallen-ness, He knew the profundities of perfection, and yet chose the brokenness that so overtakes us and leaves us begging for relief. We can see in His life here that He knew how to comfort people—He knew that when the pain is too great for words, the best way to let someone know you love them is to cry with them.
I’ve found that at His feet is the place where I pour out my greatest worship of Him. Because while my mother was not healed, my tattered heart has been. While the definition of joy seems to be happiness, I’ve found that to be untrue. I believe joy is nestled closely to and intertwined with a faith that precedes circumstance—whether affliction abides or not. He loves us in the ways we need loved, and makes us more like Himself along the way. I hate it, but occasionally we’re asked to trust Him amidst suffering, and sometimes He feels far off; but He is never far off, He is never not there. I’ve held tightly to the God of compassion because while we may suffer profoundly here on this earth, every once in a while, all we have to do is touch the corner of His robe and we’re healed.