It’s funny the things that can immediately bring tears to your eyes. On an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, I opened my inbox and gasped. Inside, an email invited me to congratulate my grandma on a milestone number of years in her listed profession: pastor’s wife.
Just past the hilarity of “How in the world is she on LinkedIn and who signed her up?” is the gut punch, the sting of tears, the unexpected wave of sadness rolling in.
What LinkedIn doesn’t know is that my grandma passed away. Today, as you read this article or listen to it on the podcast, is two years to the day that my grandpa passed away. Two funerals in less than one year is, frankly, two too many.
Grief is both a stranger and a close friend you know intimately. It can bring you to your knees in an instant, while other times you see it coming from a distance. It shouts and it whispers and it lingers, arriving in waves that can lap at the shore or roar in a storm. Grief is a path chosen by none yet eventually discovered by all, occasionally anticipated but mostly unexpected. It doesn’t care about our timetable, our plans, or our dreams. We all—every single one of us—will experience brokenness, pain, loss, and sorrow.
Within my small circle of close friends, over the last two years we’ve worn black dresses at seven funerals for our parents or grandparents. We’ve walked through cancer, car wrecks, job loss, difficulty finding a new job, break-ups, abuse, starting over in a new city, a heartbreaking diagnosis, medical unknowns from the lack of a diagnosis, and unexpected surgeries . . . to say nothing of a global pandemic.
These two years have included celebrations and answered prayers, too. There have been plenty of good things, but it’s okay to recognize and name this season for what it has been and still is: a lot.
It’s a lot of loss. It’s a lot of grief. It’s a lot of change.
It’s been a lot for what feels like a long time.
My friends would take the pain and loss away from me if they could, just as I would for them, but there’s an undeniable gift in knowing we’ll face the waves together. There’s relief in not having to be okay together.
I’m convinced one of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture is found in John 11:35 — “Jesus wept.” Those two small words speak a powerful truth: No matter what we’re facing, we aren’t alone. It’s not only a display of kindness; it’s a picture of His friendship. Jesus didn’t run from pain or rush through sadness, didn’t say “hurry up” or “get over it” or “at least ______.”
Jesus came and Jesus cried.
Despite knowing resurrection was written onto the next page of the story, the Man of Sorrows chose to grieve what was broken. Hope Himself let His heart break, and somehow it’s this that gives me hope in the midst of my heartbreak.
When LinkedIn emails and you want more than anything to actually be able to say Hello and Congratulations and I miss you so much . . . When a friend says “I’m just really sad today, and I can’t imagine a day when that won’t be the case” or another doctor’s report confirms the same difficult news . . . When you wear the white dress and the seat in the front row is empty or you reach for the phone and dial a familiar number before realizing no one is going to pick up . . .
It’s then that it truly and deeply matters: We have a God who cries.
Jesus isn’t scared of our grief or disappointed that we’re still sad; He just comes closer to weep with us. He isn’t surprised by our despair or our anger; He gets angry with death too, lamenting what has broken even though the Word knows the final word belongs to redemption, to joy, to life.
He might say, “Peace, be still” and calm the storm or He might show us how to walk on the waves that threaten to overtake, but no matter what, Hope is not going to let us sink.
And so if I may, from the girl who both smiled and cried over an email from LinkedIn, can I offer you the words my friends and I speak over each other when the storm is raging, when the answer to “How are you?” is “I’m sad today,” when the doctors still don’t know or the date rolls around on the calendar yet again?
I’ll hope for you.
Until you can catch your breath, I’ll hold onto hope for you, trusting that really, it’s Hope that’s holding onto us.
It’s okay if you aren’t okay today. It’s okay to not be okay tomorrow either. Waves will come, some stronger than others, some seen from a distance and others that will take you completely by surprise. Storms will come, but redemption is guaranteed and His presence is promised.
Our friend Jesus is acquainted with grief and familiar with waves. We have a God who cries. We have a reason to hope.