What do you do when confronted with such a tragic situation? How are we called, as followers of Jesus, when we encounter people with unimaginable grief? Jesus, himself, gives us a model for how to approach such situations. In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, we read about the death of Lazarus. Jesus allows Lazarus to die and then raises him from the dead. He tells his disciples plainly "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe." In other words, Jesus didn't prevent Lazarus from dying and in this case, at least partly, Jesus was glad because his death would actually be used by God to bring the disciples, and so many others, to understand who Jesus really is, what he is capable of, and how he truly is the Messiah. We would never say God delights in the fact that this world is broken, yet God can use even the most horrific events for good. Of course, when in the midst of such tragedy it's difficult, to say the least, to see how this could be possible. It's important to note, however, that when Jesus makes his final approach to the tomb of Lazarus he does not give a theological explanation to those grieving. When Jesus arrives he witnesses the grief:
Jesus wept. When we encounter people in grief, the best thing that we can do is join them in their grief. Even Jesus, who knew that he would soon resurrect Lazaus, didn't offer an explanation or rush to make the people feel better, but entered into their situation with tears and a troubled spirit. We live in a fallen world with so many broken systems and people. Many times the way we are the body of Christ, Jesus in the world, is when we pray, hold close, and cry with others about how this is not the way it's supposed to be.
We can do this without giving in to the despair because of the hope we have in Jesus. Jesus said to Lazarus' sister Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who belives in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Martha said "Yes, Lord...I believe that you are the Chirst, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." We have hope, even in the most desperate of situations, because of the One, the Messiah, who came and entered into our grief, into our pain, and forged a new path to restore us to our God and the eternal abundant life that comes from knowing Him. As students in Newtown go back to school this week, I pray that they know God is there for them, even through times such as these, and that we, as followers of the Suffering Servant Jesus Christ, are here in prayer and grief with them.