“I Know How You Feel”
Just when you think it can’t get worse, some”well-wisher” comes along to whisper in your ear, “I know how you feel”. They simply can’t find the words to say anything else. Hearing those words seldom eases the pain. Hearing how your friend once lost their home doesn’t solve your money problems. Hearing about their divorce doesn’t erase your spouse’s infidelity. And hearing someone else’s tragedy of loss doesn’t bring back your loved one.
In the midst of the storm, whatever your storm, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that anyone has felt your pain. To know another soul breathing has endured such turmoil just to remain upright is practically unthinkable. As your tears fall, these words are but another mindless background noise left to take up space during the trial.
This trial was no different. For days friends, family, co-workers and fellow church members hovered. Casserole dishes came in and out. Soft music echoed in the sitting room as candles were kept lit in the bathroom. Everyone was there. Everyone except Lazarus and Jesus. With the wake behind them, Lazarus’ sisters were left with the task of entertaining ‘mourners”, planning the funeral, and maintaining a smile. Martha had never been much good at putting on a pleasant front. Certainly this day wouldn’t change that. She owned her feelings and had mastered the art of allowing her emotions to precede her actions.
Mary, on the other hand spent the evening smiling, however plastered, and shaking hands. Occasionally, she would share a “Lazarus story” with a friend wishing a trail down memory lane. With a constant tear, Mary held it together. Martha was not so lucky.
A picture of Lazarus stood on an artist’s easel as loved ones moved in a greeting line, touching his smile with the tips of their fingers.
“Where is Jesus in all this?” Martha would grunt angrily while pouring yet another tray of drinks for the guest. “Why isn’t He here? Why are we alone?” In such a moment loneliness, fear, resentment, and good old fashioned heart ache creeps in to take up residence. When the very one you love has been taken, time is just a word and healing is a world away. Knowing a room full of former broken hearts are standing by to offer apologies does nothing to ease the ruptured vessels that have taken you hostage. When all you can do is scream “why”, nothing else seems to matter.
Then entire town had gathered. Flowers covered the freshly turned soil as the box of tissue passed through the crowd. “I know how you feel” didn’t stop the procession. It didn’t erase the scars that had already taken residence in the sister’s hearts. One final kiss on the cheek and Lazarus had just as quickly become a memory.
To be sure, God Himself wiped away a tear. To see Mary and Martha clutching a shirt of his in hopes of holding their brother’s scent for a moment longer. Certainly He whispered, “I know how you feel. I’ve been there. The pain DOES fade. Hold on, you’ll see him again. I know…I know how you feel.”
When the storm is raging and our hearts are broken, seeing God’s purpose and feeling His well earned compassion can be far from present moment. All too often, we stand with the pieces of our world and tattered umbrellas in our tear soaked hands. In our own understanding, we can not see an ounce of healing. It is in those very moments that God calls us to rest. He promises rest, in fact! “Come to me all you who labor and are heaven laden, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST!” (Matthew 11:28)
“I know how you feel,” He whispers. “Come rest on my shoulder. Wrap yourself with my arms and wait. I WILL give you rest. The pain does lesson. Hold on. You will hold his hand again. You will touch his face. I know how you feel”. I can only imagine the pain the Father felt as Mary and Martha sobbed uncontrollably as the stone covered all signs of Lazarus’ life. I can picture His arms out stretched in an attempt to share his story of love lost. Surely He knows the feeling of losing the very person your heart beats for. Giving His only son knowing he’ll have to watch Jesus take his last breath nailed to the cross gave Him the ability to say “I Know how you feel”.
In true form, Jesus rides in like the Savior He is. Oddly enough, his steps were slow. There was no anxiety in his movements. By the time Jesus made it to graveside to console Mary and Martha, days had passed. Unexpectedly, Mary screamed in anger. Jesus was her friend…she was angry! “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” (John 11:21)
Haven’t we all felt like that at some point? If only Jesus had been there. When we are looking for someone to blame for our pain, isn’t He the likely suspect? When the world doesn’t seem to feel our pain, isn’t Jesus the one we want answers from?
“Your brother WILL rise again” ( John 11:23) He promises with a strong look of “I know how you feel”
Lazarus did rise again. Jesus called him, “by name” to walk out of the grave and he did. We can’t always see the outcome while clinging to a mangled umbrella. There are times when we can’t see past our tear filled, blood shot eyes. It is in these times, God calls us to lay our head in his lap and simply rest. He doesn’t call us in for a lecture of lack of faith, but to run his fingers through our hair and offer rest as he whispers, “I know how you feel”.
When the family and friends leave, when the last casserole has been eaten and the flowers fade, there is a place to rest. He does know how you feel, even if no one else does. He offers hope and promises peace. Cry for as long as you need to. Hurt as long as it takes. He is there holding the tissue.