We’ve probably all been there at one point or another – a friend has just gotten some bad news and we’re there attempting to comfort them. If you’re anything like me, this is a situation you struggle with because in those moments, I just want to fix. I want everything to get back to normal so I’m always thinking, “what can I do to help them resolve this quickly?” For fixers, we see value in solving problems and often can’t help ourselves when we’re faced with a situation like this. But, the problem with this is that, for the most part, when someone is in the middle of a crisis, fixing is not what they need in that moment. They need to know that we’re there, we’re listening and that we are meeting them right where they are.
Take this clip from the movie Inside Out for example. Bing Bong, the elephant(ish) character, is very upset about his rocket getting thrown out. Joy and Sadness are both present to witness this and their reactions are very interesting. Check it out:
This clip gets me EVERY TIME! While Joy attempts to fix the situation by trying to distract him and then refocus him on their shared goal, Sadness acknowledges Bing Bong’s feelings, hears him and spends time sitting with him in his… well… sadness! For Bing Bong, all he needed was an empathetic ear to help him move through his pain and continue on toward the outcome. And believe it or not, there’s actually a story in the Bible that reminds me of this video clip!
I was recently listening to a sermon on John 11, where Jesus receives word that Lazarus, Mary and Martha’s brother, is sick. They are all very close friends of Jesus’ and so he tells his disciples that they are going to travel back to Judea to get to the village where Lazarus and his sisters live. This is surprising to the disciples because Jesus had nearly been stoned not very long before in Judea. Jesus assures them it will be fine and says,
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”John 11:11
Now, the disciples thought he literally meant Lazarus was taking a nap so they were fairly unconcerned. But Jesus knew that Lazarus had died and he had plans to raise him from the dead. Being a little more blunt this time, he says,
“Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”John 11:14-15
Jesus had waited 2 days before telling the disciples they were going back to Judea and this statement gives us a clue as to why. He wanted to glorify God with this miracle he was about to perform and give the disciples yet another reason to believe that he was who he said he was. There was also a fair amount of snarkiness in that statement, which I very much appreciate.
Not to be outdone in the snark department, good ole’ Doubting Thomas says to the rest of the disciples (probably under his breath),
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”John 11:16
Way to be positive, Thomas. So off they go and when they get there, they discover that Lazarus has been dead for 4 days. Martha had gotten word that Jesus was coming and she came out to meet them, saying,
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”John 11:21-22
If you’ve ever read the account of Mary and Martha in the gospel of Luke, you know that Martha was the “doer” of the 2 sisters. While Mary was sitting at Jesus’ feet, Martha was channeling her modern namesake Martha Stewart and trying to host a perfect dinner. She gets exasperated with her sister and basically tells Jesus that he needs to tell Mary to help her. He responds with nothing but love and gentleness and I’ve often thought that experience built Martha’s faith. When I look at her words here, I do see growth and I also see a little bit of the woman that wants to direct the outcome. She tells him “God will give you whatever you ask”… hint, hint Jesus!
After this, Jesus also sees Mary, who says almost the exact same thing as Martha had said. What happens next is what reminds me of that video clip we talked about above:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”John 11:33-36
Jesus wept. It’s the shortest verse in the Bible, but it says so much. It shows us we have a Savior that feels what we feel. Just like Sadness did with Bing Bong, Jesus saw the raw emotion about Lazarus’ death and FELT it. He didn’t come swooping in like Joy saying, “Don’t worry guys! Did you forget who I am?! I can fix this!” He took the time to stand with them in their mourning and FEEL it. When we’re going through something, we can take heart knowing that we have a Savior who is not only weeping with us, but also has the power to lift us out of our circumstances:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”John 11:38-44
I can only imagine what it must have been like to be standing there when Lazarus walked out of that tomb. Jesus must have gotten such a kick out of the looks on everyone’s faces! And then, because he is a Savior who doesn’t just swoop in, fix, and leave, he likely enjoyed a joyous celebration with all that had gathered. Because not only does Jesus share in our sorrows, he shares in our joy too. Whatever you’re going through today, know that you can turn your eyes to Jesus and he’ll be waiting there, ready to meet you right where you are.