John 11:35, NIV
There was an old man who had lost a great deal in his life. He lived alone and once his wife died, he stopped socializing. When they were younger, he and his wife of 30 years had planned to spend their retirement days traveling the world and volunteering to help the less fortunate. After his wife died unexpectantly, he became angry with the world and angry with God. He closed himself off from everyone, including his only son and grandchildren. Eventually, people in his life gave up trying.
He spent many days yelling at and pointing a fist at God. He’d talk to the sky and sometimes just to the space around him telling God exactly how he felt. One day, he even stopped doing that. Eventually, he assumed that God stopped caring and stopped listening because the pain of losing his high school sweetheart never went away. He stopped caring about anything, except basic survival. He stopped tending to the garden that he and his wife cared for together. He even stopped looking out the window at the garden.
One day, he fell asleep with something on the stove. By the time he woke up, it was almost too late. Fortunately, his neighbor saw the smoke. The fire truck showed up as the man tried to put out the fire. A couple of firefighters burst through the door, located the flames, and quickly put out the fire. They brought the man outside to his patio and sat him in one of the seats facing the garden. As the man was catching his breath and being checked out by the EMTs, he noticed something. His garden was as pristine and healthy as it had ever been. It was as though someone had been taken care of it all along. At that moment, he caught the eye of his neighbor peeking out her kitchen window with concern. He looked over at her garden and realized what happened. His heart filled with emotion. He looked at her once again and smiled a thank you. Her eyes returned the smile that simply said that’s what neighbors do.
Sometimes we can be going through something that makes us feel alone and wonder if anyone understands our pain. Sometimes when we experience loss, in our grief, we feel like the pain is unbearable. We may lash out at loved ones and even lash out at God. Even when we can’t always feel it, it’s during these times that God shows us care and understanding.
Despite what we may feel in a moment, God is simply amazing. Not only did God wrap up all that awesomeness in flesh to hang out with us, but God became flesh and dwelt among us. God didn’t just have some metaphorical experience of being human. God became human and for that reason, God truly understands what we are going through on this side of eternity.
One of the places where this is clear is in John 11:35 when Jesus wept. Of all the things God could have done at that moment, God chose to weep because the people were in pain. True, Martha and Mary had just blamed him for that pain, but Jesus felt their pain, nonetheless. Jesus didn’t allow being fully God to diminished being fully human at that moment. He grieved with the people. Jesus meant it when he said that he will never leave nor forsake us.
When we feel pain or grieve a loss, God is right there with us. We may not understand why things happened and we may not understand how God holds us, but the fact remains, we are being held. Through caring neighbors, through a listening ear, through every plate of food, through every act of kindness, God is right there. Even when God is silent during our anger and even in the tears of those going through our pain with us, God is right there. Jesus meant it when he said that he will never leave nor forsake us.
Today, if you are going through pain or loss, please allow God to love you through that pain and loss, as only God can. Whether directly or through others, God is right there waiting to carry your burdens with and for you.