By Pastor Becca McCary
Love me for it, hate me for it, or don’t give a care about it, if you know me well, you know I struggle with anxiety. Though I’ve always struggled with it to some degree, it’s gripped me in a new way in the last couple of years. A big part of this was becoming a mom and feeling the weight of love I have for my kids. If anything serious were ever to happen to them, my heart would really struggle with that. Another big part of my anxiety is simply growing up as I come to terms with my own limits and lack of ability to control certain outcomes in life. Despite my sincere love for Jesus, too often I struggle to trust him at the core of my being.
That’s what catches me off guard about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I can’t seem to wrap my head around Mary and Martha’s response to their brother’s death. This great tragedy befalls them, and they are so honest with their grief. They even blame Jesus to his face... “Lord, if you would have been there, our brother wouldn’t have died!” Just breaths after uttering her words of honest grief and blame, Martha precociously expresses her unwavering trust in Jesus.
How?!! How can they love so deeply? How can their hearts be so broken? And still, how do they bring their suffering right to Jesus’ face and choose to trust him? Was it all the time they had spent sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to his teachings? Was it all the meals they had eaten with him in their home? Was it all the miracles they had witnessed?
Grief and anxiety are often tied together. There is fear of change, fear of the unknown, and overwhelming emotions. The story of Lazarus captures all of these emotions so well. There is weeping, and yelling, shock, and a whole myriad of other emotions taking place among dear friends and family. Most of us can relate to these intense emotions at some time in their lives.
What encourages me most in this passage is not the piety of Mary and Martha, though it is beautiful and admirable. What encourages me most in this passage is seeing Jesus’ reaction to Lazarus’ death.
Reading through John 11:1-45, Jesus is so Divine, knowing exactly what the future will hold for Lazarus’ healing. He is so confident of the future good that he almost seems cold. But when he goes to be with the grieving family, he is filled with immense emotion over Lazarus’ death, weeping, and even shouting. He is so human.
Too often I’m afraid to be as human as Jesus. Any negative emotion I feel... sadness, fear, anger, regret, I try to numb it, and stuff it down by staying busy and productive. But in the process of suppressing negative emotion, I inadvertently suppress the good emotions too, like joy and trust. I can be a coward towards my own feelings at times. But Jesus is so courageously human, allowing himself to feel the full weight of grief. Reading this story, it’s like Jesus is giving me permission to be human too, to feel whatever it is I’m afraid to fully express.
And simultaneously Jesus reminds us that he has good plans for us that stretch beyond the grief. Jesus is in control, so we don’t have to be. We can let go. We can feel. We can trust. Because, as we see in the story of Lazarus, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He works miracles greater than we can ever see or imagine. Death still happens. Bad things still happen. But even through all the pain and emotion that we experience in our humanity, God is in control, pouring out so many blessings in our lives, including the gift of eternal life. For me, on my most anxious days, that is a great comfort. I hope it’s a comfort for you too.
As you listen to this song below, please take a moment to allow yourself to be as human as Jesus, feeling whatever it is you feel. And at the same time, invite your heart to trust a bit deeper, our Good God, who is the resurrection and the life.