Healed by Grief

“Pain caused by pain healed by pain.”

Easter 18v

Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

I’m sure many of you recognize this verse as a saying of Jesus from the sermon on the mount. It’s become so familiar to us that we often just gloss over it and don’t really think about the impact of the statement, or it just becomes an empty platitude that we use to comfort the grieving, like a Hallmark greeting, kind of a ‘there, there, it’ll be all right’— but really; what is that comfort?

When you have lost someone you love, when you cannot imagine facing another day without your husband, your wife, your child, your parent, your best friend—anyone you love and depend on to be there in your life—when they are suddenly and irreversibly gone; what is that comfort that Jesus promised us here?

It is, of course, the resurrection. It is the life that we know cannot be snuffed out because of the very thing that we celebrate today—the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the great old Hymn says, “because he lives I can face tomorrow.” I will be comforted, because I know my redeemer lives. I know that I too will l live and that I will be reunited with all those who go before me and all those I leave behind and my grief will seem but a moment in the light of eternity together.

He is Risen

That first resurrection morning the followers of Jesus were in serious grief mode but their sorrow was turned into joy, they were indeed comforted when they heard the reports of the women who discovered the empty tomb and then shortly thereafter when Jesus visited them on several occasions after his resurrection. It is one of the most talked about and documented events in human history—and it changed everything—everything.

It changed the course of human history and the way we see life and death. It made all of Jesus’ radical teachings of love and mercy, forgiveness and charity a part of the human consciousness. For surely without the resurrection it would have all been quickly forgotten by a cruel and selfish world where only the strong and the most violent ruled or had influence. It brought hope to the hearts of humankind, it brought life and it brought healing.

But most importantly, it was a healing, a healing of our relationship with our God, an eternal healing of our dead and dying spirits. In the here and now it offers a healing to or hearts, our minds, and our flesh if we are willing to believe and seek it. But it is a healing that was purchased at the cost of incredible pain, sorrow and grief, a grief that we often don’t recognize like we should and a cost that is so great we can never comprehend it—a cost that was borne by our God.

Greif is pain and pain can only be healed by pain. It is one of those unwritten laws of the universe. God knows this, God grieves over this—and God himself bears the pain that ends the pain.

We in our frail flesh and limited perception sometimes experience what we think is pain beyond bearing, but we always have hope, there is always an end to our pain, and there is always a purpose. It is seldom on purpose, but our God always finds a way to use it for good for those who love him, for those who are called according to his purpose. We may not understand it nor always believe it but it helps to know that we have a God who does, who suffered and suffers, more than we can ever know.

God the Father knows the pain of loss.

Jesus was taken to a hill outside the city and is nailed through his hands and feet to a rough, blood stained wooden cross. He is then raised up from the ground and left hanging there to die a slow miserable death as the people he had come to save look on, some in horror— some in glee, most in indifference, ‘another day, another crucifixion.’ But there is one watching who is far from indifferent, his Father.

God the Father is watching his very son, the one through whom, for who and by whom he had created all things, become everything ugly and filthy in this evil and messed up world as all of the filth, all of that rebelliousness, all of the selfishness and foolishness that had separated mankind from him so long ago, forcing him to dwell behind a blackout curtain in a tiny room in a stone temple just to be near his people, all of that sin was being placed on his Son as he hung bleeding and gasping for breath on that cross made from wood he had created and even learned to shape with his hands.

be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:20,21

We know of course why he did it, so that we could be reconciled to him. But think about it, the sacrifice that this was, the sheer magnitude of the pain and the grief it must have caused both the Father and the Son was for the first time in all of eternity past, the Son was being separated from the Father, separated by the thing most abhorrent to a holy God who is love, sin, the epitome of all things evil and dirty.

He whose Spirit when on the earth dwelled behind a covering of cloth when in the midst of sinful humanity was now seeing his own Son become the thing he had been forced to punish over and over again—his heart breaking every time.

Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday Silhouette

The Father was now being forced to confront his Holy and perfect Son, suffering immensely on the cross, but now enveloped—so immersed in our sinfulness that he became the embodiment of sin, and he had to deal to him the punishment that the law of a just and righteous God demanded; separation from God the Father. Complete separation from all things good, from love, from light itself— true and total death. The light of the world became darkness, life became death and the Father had to turn away.

As a result the heavens went dark, the sun refused to shine and the earth itself trembled and God the Son cried out in anguish rending the heavens with his cries “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The Father’s heart breaks at that moment, absolute, unspeakable— ‘there are no words to describe the pain, grief and anguish I feel’— heart break. Then Jesus cries out with a loud voice, takes his last breath and he is gone

The Father looks down and see’s the bloody robe of his son in the hands of the soldiers as they look up at the one whom they have pierced and his anguish and grief demand an outlet and he finds a way, the same way that Joseph’s father Israel had expressed his anguish at the sight of his son’s bloody robe so many centuries ago—Rip!

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37—38

lightning

The very real, very costly and very heavy cloth veil that separated God from man, that hid his glory from sinful eyes that would never bear up under the sight of seeing a perfect and holy God in his glory, is literally ripped from top to bottom. This was more than just symbolic of the separation between God and man being taken away, the timing says to me that this was God saying ‘I am hurting beyond words at the death of my Son and this is my way of expressing it to you.

Grief

God the Father, at the time of his Son’s death was experiencing inexpressible anguish and grief—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?” It was about all the Father could take but he could not intervene, he could not reach out to his Son, this had to be done—for us. All he could do at the moment to express his grief to the universe was to rip his robe. The one thing that had separated all of humanity from seeing him, just as our own clothing hides us.

The rending of the veil, in the end, come to have a much greater meaning. One that would also facilitate our healing, even God’s anger has a higher, loving purpose. For in God’s grief we would find our salvation, our healing, our reconciliation, in the grief of the one who loves us, a grief that we had caused.

God’s grief would later be assuaged by the resurrection of his Son and his return to glory, as Jesus, who had never sinned, who was indeed the Son of God and the Son of man was able to overcome death because death had no claim to him.

And God now rejoices in the reconciliation of all his children back to him—and offers healing for our grief and pain.

Pain caused by pain, healed by pain.Tunnel

 

 

 

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Where was God when I was being hurt?

 

 

“. . . an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.”

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Rom 8:25Slide2

I want to ask the hard question, the one that we all ask from time to time and one that we all, as Christians have probably been asked by others—‘Where is God when I hurt, where was God when I was being hurt?’ Frankly, as a Pastor, that question sometimes scares the snot out of me because I am not sure I know the answer, or that the answer will be adequate to stay the anger that is directed at God that is causing that question to be asked in the first place. All I know is that God grieves over our hurts and he is not unaware of our sufferings.

And sometimes, in response to those suffering, that is the best answer—no answer, but to grieve and wonder with them, to give them space and license to weep and vent, recognizing and validating the hurt while clinging to the hope that in the end, whether we can see the end or not, will not disappoint us.

I probably won’t answer that question today either, but then, if we knew the answer, if we had immediate deliverance from all our trials, if we always saw the Lord standing beside us, it wouldn’t be called hope—would it.

The story of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of two women whom Jesus had come to know very well—Mary and Martha, gives us some insight into this perplexing question. Jesus and the disciples stayed at their home when they were in the area and Martha, apparently a woman of some means, likely helped support Jesus and his followers as they to traveled around spreading the news of the Kingdom’s coming. You might recall the story of Martha bustling around serving while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus as he taught.

So when tragedy struck, their brother Lazarus falling deathly ill, they expected and believed that Jesus would be there to save the day—but he wasn’t.

I’ll give you the highlights here, for the whole story read John chapt. 11

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. . . . Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

. . .  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

. . .He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

. . . So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.

. . .20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

. . . 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus wept36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God. 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me,. . . 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

The Father Hears

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‘Lord, why weren’t you here, where were you when Lazarus was hurting? Where were you when we were crying out for you?’

Quite the story, honest and real if you look at the human drama being played out here around the miracle that often overshadows what I think is the greater lesson and the insight into the real emotions and empathy of a real God. Let’s just bite off a few pieces here and see what we can glean.

“And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me”

This one spoke a lot to me as far as answering our question.

“I know that you always hear me.” I have to conclude that Jesus waited this long to come because his Father asked him to. Jesus was sorely grieved, groaning in his spirit both in anguish for his dear friends Mary and Martha but also, both in his humanness and as the Son of God, because of the pain of death his friend Lazarus had to endure—the pain he endured wondering; “Where is Jesus? Is he going to heal me before I die? Is he going to care for my sisters? Where is God?”

Jesus was aware of this anguish and he felt it deeply himself. But he knew his Father heard him, even while he wrestled in his flesh with not hurrying straight to Bethany. But even in this turmoil which he no doubt experienced amidst the potential for doubt and anguish, he was patient and obedient to his Father knowing that his Father always heard him.

I think there is a great lesson there, do we believe that the Father always hears us? He does. And we also know that Just as Jesus was interceding for his friends his Spirit is interceding for us—even in, and especially in our pain.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:26—27

Jesus is interceding for us with the same passion and compassion that he interceded for Mary, Martha and Lazarus with, an intercession even too deep for words. That is your hope.

Immanuel, God with us.

What Mary didn’t know was that Jesus was there. He is here with us even now, even in our darkest days. When all hope seems lost, when it has to be just too late, it is never too late, Jesus is there by his Spirit, the Father is there, grieving, groaning because of the pain we suffer and he calls us to be there for one another—to be his arms to hold, his hands to help and his heart to break, to  grieve with those who grieve, but he also calls us to bring the hope, to pray in the Spirit, on behalf of the Spirit.

Hear them

We need to display that heart of Jesus. One of the things I have learned in ministering to those who have been sexually abused is that an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.

They just need someone to hear them, to love them, to give them space to grieve, to be angry and to ask the hard questions without pat answers, indifference or judgments. Just be there, be there for the hurting, the abused, the sick, the dying and grieving, be Jesus so when they ask “where is Jesus” you can say; ‘right here, He sent me to you, and my spirit groans for you as I pray for your restoration and healing.’ And in that, I assure you, they will find comfort, that’s a promise from Jesus.

 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

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For me the bottom line is here, Jesus hurts when we hurt, his heart is totally devoted to and invested in us and in the end everything will indeed be okay, better than okay, if not in this life then most assuredly in the next. We have the resurrection and the life in our corner and we do not necessarily have to wait till resurrection day to see that power on display for we are more than conquerors—and that is our hope, and hope will not disappoint us.