I heard a guy say, “Jesus did not cry at Lazarus’ funeral because He was sad, He cried because He looked around at all the people weeping and saw how little faith they had”.
Basically his rationale was this: They should have known he was the saviour and had the power to raise Lazarus from the grave. They should have looked ahead and seen that life is so short and meaningless compared to eternity. Getting worked up over a little thing like death was showing their unbelief and if they really believed, they wouldn’t cry.
In the evangelical world I was raised in, it was our job to set our minds and everyone else's minds on 'things above'. A good Christian's job was to pull everyone out of suffering, and help them see they are being too emotional, weak, or worldly-minded, and should not be dealing with problems like these.
The sad approach
What is sad about this approach is neither the hurting nor the healer become healed. Partly because the healer uses the situation to demonstrate how 'healed' they are, putting the hurt one below them and elevating themselves; re-enforcing disconnection. We think we are healing them by convincing them to have a smile and walk away from the meeting with a victorious outlook, but all we did was silence the inner voice of two people and postpone the pain for another day.
When we correct people's feelings, shut down their feelings, and/or explain to them how to quickly get out of their bad feelings, we are actually simply showing them our own discomfort with emotion and pain.
When we don’t allow another's experience to be real, it dehumanizes and devalues them, cancelling out the real miracle of pain, which is: drawing people together. I sometimes think suffering is tied into creation. Because without it, we would be prone to and satisfied to live in isolation.
Pain is often misunderstood and attacked.
It shows up, not to be solved or eradicated,
but to unite.
Pain says to the healed one, "Do you remember?"
And to the hurt one, "You're not alone".
Empathy creates equality and is crucial for healing. Empathizing pain does not mean you have to agree with or understand what the other is feeling. It simply says, “I honor your life’s experience because your life is valuable.” Empathy gives dignity.
Sometimes in our healing of others we walk away unchanged, because we bought them groceries instead of cooking them a meal. Healing is always universal and never aimed at just one person like an arrow. When pain shows up, so does healing, and they enter the room like the smell of fresh baked bread from an oven.
Pain often draws in a listener, little knowing,
healing is there offering itself to both people.
Lately, I’ve been changing my internal agenda when I’m listening to someone talk through a problem. I try to simply be with them in their pain, not get them out of it. I sit down with them internally and focus my eyes on the small things, noticing the inflections in their voice, the quiver of their lips, the lines on their face, the hair on their arms, the twitch of their fingers, the tap of their feet. I take it all in and don’t judge it. I just notice it. I feel like them.
It reminds me of the verse that says, “In the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me.” There’s no mention of rescue or escape just, “I’m with you” in the valley. This makes gradually more sense to me because when I am suffering, I realize I am not usually looking for a solution or praying for the sun to shine again; I just don’t want to be alone. I often think I could endure just about anything on this earth if I knew someone was there doing it with me.
Another verse in the Bible says, “He will be their God and they will be His people, and He will wipe every tear from their eye”. This verse is commonly understood as taking place in the after-life, in Heaven, which is weird because, why would we cry? I've heard a comment about this verse being explained as, “those are tears of joy.” It's funny the lengths we go to, to make Christianity nice. I’m sorry friend but those are not tears of joy in a future heaven.
I believe we will cry ...
because we do cry ...
because crying is ok.
I don’t know what is better: God telling me I’ll never cry again because all pain will be gone, or God promising to be with me in my pain and close enough to comfort me, offering a tissue like a friend.
And what an awesome statement to make about God; for eternity He’ll be wiping our tears.
I don’t know if I am changing people through what I am learning (actually, I'm trying not to), but just noticing, listening, and being with another person in their pain is changing me.
Ronnie is an artist whose ideas have launched businesses, apps, music albums, and as of late, cartoons. He thinks outside the box but don't tell him that, he doesn't believe in boxes, unless you're in a movie cinema. Ronnie lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A. with his wife Anna and their three boys Jack, Griffin and Maverick.
See previous articles by Ronnie Herrema