“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.” John 11:38
While I am writing these words, somewhere my daughter is being pepper sprayed, on purpose. It is a requirement for her job as a deputy sheriff. She texted to tell me a time so I could be praying. She is nervous and I am as well. I want her to know that she is not alone. Really, it’s what we all want to know—we are not alone, someone cares.
In that scary moment we want to know that we are not forgotten. Yes, deep down, we want reassurance that all will be well but while we are in the middle of that seemingly unsurmountable moment, there is a quiet desperation to know and understand that someone else knows and understands.
That is what helps us stand firm in the moment—waiting for the pain that we are in, that we know is coming.
Feeling alone can make us desperate.
Scripture has an amazing way of declaring in the dark moments and even becoming new in the defeating trials.
The story of Lazarus was a cohesive comfort when my brother was killed. I went time and again to verses 21 and 32 when both sisters proclaim, “if you were here my brother would not have died.” And then rejoiced reading that Jesus called Mary and Martha’s brother back from the grave, all while knowing the same had been done for my own brother.
When my father-in-law died last year, I was asked to read scripture of my own choosing at his funeral. I turned instinctively to this same story, but to verse 25: “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes I me, though he die, yet shall he live.’”
Those were the words I wanted coming off my lips. The hope that I clung to was all I could offer to those looking for the same.
I couldn’t change that lonely desperation, but I could stand with them and let them know that hope was not cut off, that they were not alone.
The last days and weeks seem fine on the surface and then a few days ago I just kept crying, unable to put my finger on it. My teenage daugther came home from school and without explanation I annoyingly burst into tears again. After apologizing, I told her I didn’t know what it was exactly and she promptly named large looming things that are casting long shadows in our lives at the moment.
“Those are things that will stress you out mom,” she said.
I turn again to the Word—living and written. Often when worries arise, I seem to fret and stare hard at the looming shadows. Quickly I think I don’t have what it takes to carry this, to handle this.
At every turn there seems an issue. Every moment a retaliation against the design. Sin seems to be soaking in, like a spilled Coke on my best table runner. Every fiber is drinking it up and it sticks and stains.
Prayer comes quicker, easier when worries mount. I’d like it to be the other way round as well. That may be what is unnerving me. I am praying for these things and they don’t seem to be clearing, changing, improving. At least not in the way I would have hoped or expected or prayed.
An ailing child loses weight as anxiety ebbs and peace rushes out, looking for answers that I do not have.
A father wheezes with lungs struggling.
A mother-in-law grieves her spouse still this one year out after watching a life slip away so quickly before our eyes.
A friend far away sits at the bedside of her 21-year-old battling bacterial infections that threaten her life.
Surprising bills mount and say you have no way to cover this.
Stories of a young deputy in my daughter’s same position, not far from here, tell of her being thrown over a second floor railing by an inmate, nearly knocking the life from her on the pavement below.
I know that He knows about sick kids, aging parents. He knows that there is death, that there are seemingly overwhelming battles, that there are life threats. I know that He knows everything and I have told Him.
I have sent word, I have cried out and I have cried when my teen walks in from school scratching her head, wondering what is wrong with mom.
Then this morning my daily reading brings me once again to the story of Lazarus.
Like those other times that seemed overwhelming and devastating the living Word of God offers encouragment anew.
I paid close attention to verse 6, the one preachers always seem to highlight: “So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
It is the one that initially makes you scratch your head, wondering why He doesn’t just go and fix the problem.
Then verse 14 when Jesus tells them plainly that Lazarus is now dead. I always chuckle at Thomas dramatically proclaiming, let us also go that we may die with him.
But I read on, excited that I know what is coming. What must Jesus have thought? Was he also excited thinking of what was coming?
Then, as though I had never seen it before, there is the verse that unraveled me this time: verse 38. “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.”
He has already been moved. He wept in one of scripture’s most famous verses. He had already wept with his friends over the death of a friend. He had already immersed himself in their hurt and let the wicked separation of death and destruction deeply touch his heart. He had cried out already against the lie that tears us apart. He had moved towards the tomb, towards death.
I never noticed it said he was moved again.
Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He was just about to heal the hurt, defeat the sickness, answer the prayers—the prayers that people thought had been missed, but the word of God says that He was deeply moved again.
He was still standing with his people—those that He loved, feeling their feelings, entering in. They knew at that moment, if nothing else, that they were not alone. That He was willing to suffer along side.
He came to the tomb.
(If those words were pregnant, they’d be dilated to 10 and well past time to push.)
When I read those words again, my heart lept before even getting to the good part. I know this one! I know the end of the story.
So did He. He wrote it.
So I wait with anticipation and the words on the page. I imagine myself waiting with Him, facing Lazarus’ tomb. Facing His own tomb.
I am also troubled, deeply moved.
The things before me are not the mom things that I can fix.
I can drive a lunch left at home to school before it is too late.
I can tie a shoe that won’t stay that way.
I can make a forgotten bed, clean a wound, hold back hair, cover them in hugs.
But, I am crying now at the face of the tomb, for this is a stone that I can’t move.
I can’t calm fears.
I can’t hold back evil.
I can’t restore breath.
I can’t raise the dead.
Even though we know the ending, there is trouble. There are periods of mourning, of suffering, while we wait.
He stands before the tomb and before that stone with me. I am not alone. Not only does He care, He grows restless, angry even, over the brokeness felt by us all.
I re-read verse 38:
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.”
We know who will come out of the tomb. That man once dead will come back to life.
This Man before it will also be in the dark of the tomb, behind the stone.
While we wait, we may be troubled, but we can take heart.
He is there.
He is deeply moved.
And He is about to break it open.