Jesus Wept: Mourning with Those Who Mourn

Jesus Wept: Mourning with Those Who Mourn

Catherine WactlarBy Catherine Wactlar6 Minutes

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

This is probably the easiest verse in the Bible to memorize, and yet one of the most deeply profound.

The word “wept” in this form doesn’t mean wailing in extreme grief, but calmly shedding tears. Jesus wept with compassion for the grief and suffering of Mary, Martha, and their loved ones with full knowledge of the glory about to be displayed when Lazarus was resurrected. Jesus didn’t rush past the emotion and anguish of the moment, telling those gathered “Be calm, I’ll fix it.” This is his humanity being displayed in perfect symmetry with his Divinity.

Some context for the circumstances surrounding Lazarus’ resurrection:

The disciples were afraid to return to the region because the last time Jesus was there, the Jews tried to stone him for blasphemy. Bethany is only two miles from Jerusalem.

Both Mary and Martha expressed deep faith when the Lord came to them. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

According to Jewish belief at that time, the soul of the departed person remained around the body for three days. The soul would depart after three days and the body would begin to decay. If the resurrection had been performed within those three days, the Jews would have claimed there was no miracle involved, as the soul had simply returned to the body within the requisite time. By the time Jesus reached Bethany, four days had passed and there was no question Lazarus was truly deceased.

Jesus returned to a region where his life had been in danger to not only resurrect his beloved friend, but also to comfort the bereaved.

Jesus provides an example to us as we follow Paul’s encouragement to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Our Lord obviously knew how to handle situations where grief was present.

Well-Meaning but Not Helpful

I don’t know about you, but I struggle in this area sometimes. I’ve had thoughts like: “I don’t know what to say.” “Maybe they want to be alone” and “I don’t want to bother them.”

After a tremendous loss, perhaps you may have been on the receiving end of well-meaning, but unhelpful comments like:

“Your child is an angel now”

“They’re in a better place”

“God never gives us more than we can bear”

“I know exactly how you feel, because …”

“At least they aren’t suffering anymore”

“You’re young, you’ll find someone else”

Those people meant well, but our society is still usually quite uncomfortable with death and awkward around those who are grieving.

Bringing Comfort to Those Who Mourn

Might I humbly suggest these options instead?

“I know how much you loved him/her.”

“I wish I had the right words for you.”

“I can’t imagine what you are going through, but I am here to listen if you need me.”

“I’m so sorry”

“You and your family will be in my prayers”

“Your _______ was a wonderful person.”

Perhaps we can just “hold space” for the bereaved, but what does this mean?

When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control. It means we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without trying to fix them, or affect the outcome. Their grief journey may look different from any you and I have been on personally. That is ok – it’s their journey. Just as Jesus was there for Mary and Martha, He is there for us when we grieve.

The Bible gives us these helpful promises regarding the grieving process:

Blessed be … the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1, NKJV)

We have a King who understands our sufferings, has compassion on us, and strengthens us to have empathy with others in their grief.

He hideth my life in the depths of His love, and covers me there with His hand. – “He Hideth My Soul” Fanny J. Crosby