It’s the shortest verse in the Bible:
Jesus wept. (John 11:35 NIV)
You probably know the story and its main characters: Lazarus is deader than dead, having spent 4 days in the tomb and Jesus is presumed late.
Early in the story, we learn that Jesus had a close relationship with not only Lazarus, but also his two sisters Mary and Martha. This makes his delay in coming seem even more unreasonable.
I love this story because it showcases the tenderhearted side of Jesus and illustrates just how much God cares for and is moved by our petitions.
But I also love this story because it deals with something we do not often talk about. If you have been a Christian for a long enough time, you have probably experienced it:
Disappointment with God.
We have all had moments in our lives where we have prayed, believed, waited, and hoped on God to come through for us. Maybe it’s a job, or a relationship waiting on restoration, a move, or even getting in to a particular college. Maybe it’s marriage, or hoping for a child, or healing from sickness.
These are good things – great things, even – and because God loves us, we desperately want them to be His Will for us (and in our preferred timing, of course).
But what if they are not?
When we encounter these disappointing moments, we may find ourselves in this story as either Martha or Mary. These two women shared similar grief and disappointment, but they interacted with Jesus in two very different ways.
When Martha hears of Jesus coming, she goes out to meet him, her words convey both belief and disappointment.
“If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask God, God will give you. ” (John 11:21 NIV)
Belief despite her disappointment.
Mary is in a very different place when Jesus arrives on the scene. She is in the house, paralyzed with grief, and surrounded by friends who are comforting her when she hears that Jesus had called for her.
She goes out to meet Jesus and immediately falls at his feet uttering almost the exact same words of her sister: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32 NIV).
At this time, Mary began weeping. Commentaries described this as “uncontrollable, loud wailing. Upon seeing her expression of grief, Jesus was deeply moved and troubled within His spirit.
Mary came unashamed with raw grief; she came to Jesus just as she was. She did not attempt to hide or minimize the heart-wrenching pain of her brother’s death.
In John 11:35 we see the description of our Savior who is moved with compassion, but not out of control. We see a Savior who is moved by our tears and who can handle hysteric meltdowns, our grief, and even our disappointment in Him.
Isn’t that incredible? You do not have to hide your heartbreak from Jesus.
Wearing a smile when you are hurting is exhausting. There are appropriate times for tears and they do not go unnoticed to God.
Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll – are they not on your record? (Psalm 56:8 NIV)
He records our heartache and collects our tears in a bottle. Not a single tear streams disregarded down your cheek. Not one.
Before we leave this story, there is one more thing to note. It is too important to miss.
Before Mary encounters Jesus, she is described as being inside the house with Jewish friends who were comforting her (John 11:19). Mary had a shoulder, or rather, multiple shoulders to cry on. She was mourning with others who shared her grief, but could do absolutely nothing to alleviate it.
It is not bad to have close friendships because they will help you carry burdens, but it is important to recognize that these friends are unable to lift the burden. They can cry with you, but rarely can they dry your tears. They can listen and empathize, and although they are moved with compassion, they are often helpless in action.
Humans are so limited in their ability, and they are meant to be.
Often, our grief and heartache draw us humbly to the feet of Jesus. They bring us to the One who fully understands our hearts, the one who can redeem even the most hopeless and impossible situations.
Jesus is more than a shoulder to cry on. He is the One whose strong shoulders can carry us out of the depths of despair… and into a life of hope.