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Tears are Tears…

August 15, 2012

Watching people grieve, feeling overwhelmed by people’s pain, hearing about the funerals of others–these have all brought me face to face with a specific calling we have as followers of Jesus: “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (see 1 Thess 4:13-18).

The instructions are very clear, but not overwhelmingly helpful. What does that look like? Tears are tears. There’s no sign that appears over the heads of grieving Christians that says, “Mourning with hope, just FYI.” Even Jesus’ weeping, I imagine, outwardly looked the same as everyone else’s. Bystanders at the scene of Lazarus’s death, for example, noticed that Jesus was crying but saw no sign of hope in his tears, no rosy glow emanating from him that prompted them to hope for a miracle. If anything his tears seemed to bring about a new wave of grief for Lazarus’s friends: they lamented that Jesus hadn’t gotten there before Lazarus died, when he could have done some good. Now, they assumed, there was no hope for their friend who’d been dead for four days already.

What I’ve come to think is that our call to mourn with hope is fleshed out in what Jesus does after he weeps, in the midst of the weeping around him: He speaks the truth. Specifically, he calls people to believe. He acknowledges that his Father has heard him. And he speaks directly to dead, embalmed Lazarus, because he knows the life in the Son of Man is stronger even than the death that had temporarily claimed his friend. We mourn with hope when, in the midst of our tears and in defiance of the despair that tries to overtake us, we speak the truth about what should not be (cancer, heart failure, senseless shootings) and what is: Jesus is alive. His Spirit is continuing to restore his creation and bring his kingdom to earth. He has defeated death. And what should not be one day will not be, as Christ will be crowned the full and final victor over death and sin.

Where do your thoughts go? How do you find your comfort?

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