Today is supposed to be about celebrating love, but I think for a lot of people, it’s also about experiencing hurt.
I know that is a pretty depressing thought, so you’re welcome for bringing you down just when you thought your week was starting to look up. It is only Tuesday after all, so we can’t get too carried away with our it’s-almost-the-weekend excitement quite yet. I’m just trying to help you manage your expectations.
But I think it’s an unfortunate reality that any holiday that celebrates love – Thanksgiving, Christmas, even birthdays and anniversaries – can also be a reminder of lost love.
I’m really bad at dealing with people when they’re upset.
I want to be there for them – a ray of hope in the darkness, a constant source of companionship, conversation and cookies. But really, I am awkward and shy, and I never know what to say.
So I give uncomfortable hugs, keep my distance and say cookie cutter things like:
“I’m so sorry – you are in my thoughts and prayers”
“God knows what you need”
“Don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything I can do.”
I try my very hardest, and fail my very hardest in some cases I think, to respond to pain from a christian perspective, and in the most loving way I know how.
I’ve witnessed a lot of people who are scared, upset, hurt or worried about what the future might hold for them in ways I can’t possibly imagine.
There are a lot of things I’m still trying to figure out, but there is one thing I recently learned I can do to change my perspective.
In trying to comfort those who are upset, I’ve noticed a lot of well-meaning, kind-hearted christians say something to the effect of:
“Just remember that God is in control.”
I know I have heard those words from my own lips many times. It’s part of my cookie cutter response to situations I am uncomfortable in.
Hypocritically though, whenever I am upset, hurt, worried or scared about something, hearing that one sentence always infuriates me. And I’m not easily infuriated.
I have cringed whenever I’ve heard myself say it. For the longest time, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why.
The intentions behind the sentiment are nice, but it never gets any easier to hear in the moment.
I always thought maybe this is because I am a terrible person. But it turns out, hopefully, that’s not entirely true.
I know people aren’t meaning to upset me when they say this. I know I am not meaning to upset anyone when I say it. And I do believe it is true.
So why did it always make me so angry?
This year, I figured it out because of how Jesus responded when Lazarus died.
I saw this tweet and decided to read back through the story of Jesus and the death of Lazarus. It is a pretty moving one.
Jesus had become close with a man named Lazarus and his two sisters – Martha and Mary. When Martha and Mary sent a letter to Jesus to let him know that Lazarus was sick, He knew God was in control. He didn’t think for a second otherwise.
Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.”
He had the power to heal Lazarus no matter what. When Jesus returned to the village of Bethany, where Lazarus and his sisters lived, He learned Lazarus had died and was laid to rest in a tomb for the past four days.
Even then, Jesus knew God was in control.
He said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.”
When Martha took Jesus to see Lazarus in his tomb though, Jesus didn’t say anything. He was silent.
He only wept.
But He is the Messiah, with the ability to do anything at all – even resurrect from the dead – something He assured Martha He would do.
So why was He weeping? Didn’t He know God is in control?
As I asked myself those questions, I realized something: Jesus did know. And so do I.
Being reminded God is in control when I’m upset is meant to make me feel better, but it actually upsets me even more. Not because I don’t believe it, but because it’s a disguised way of telling me to dismiss the hurt that I feel.
Jesus never dismisses pain. He embraces it.
He hurts with me. He allows it to be real.
He eventually uses it to mold me, challenge me and strengthen me. But before that, He simply comforts me while requiring nothing of me.
He is patient with me.
He sees me wounded, and at first, He says nothing.
He is silent.
He takes my hand and weeps with me.
There is always a period of healing, but first, there is always a period where I am allowed to come to Him and just be hurt.
A fun fact I learned: The word “Christian” is derived from a Greek word meaning “Like-Christ.”
I think there are certain ways that as Christians, we can work on living up to that title, and I think this is one of them.
Before you and I find ourselves criticizing someone for being upset instead of peacefully trusting that God is in control, I think we need to ask ourselves if that is the most loving thing we can do in that moment.
Sometimes our friends need us to gently remind them what is true, but other times, they need us to just hold their hand, weep and allow the hurt.
I think when you lose someone or something you love no matter the circumstances, it is hard because you are genuinely afraid of the uncertainty missing something can bring.
And while fear can sometimes indicate we aren’t trusting God fully, it most often indicates that we’re human.
God knows that. He made us human and expects us to be human.
We need to expect that of each other too.
We don’t need to dismiss pain. It’s okay to feel it. It’s okay to let it be real. It doesn’t mean you trust God less.
You are allowed to trust God and be hurt. They are not mutually exclusive feelings. God will still lead with love and reveal why we don’t need to be afraid in His own timing.
God is in control.
If we forget, He will remind us.
What we need to be reminding each other is this:
While we are waiting on God to break the silence, it’s okay to weep.