Maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s my sanctification, or maybe it’s the end of the freaking world (here’s hoping), but whatever the case: suffering is in the water.
And all around me I hear confusion. Confusion about the marriage of tears and faith. Confusion about the intersection of pain and trust. Confusion about the gray area between grief and the Gospel.
Most of my generation cannot cope with the discomfort of ‘negative’ emotions. We’ve been bubble wrapped from unpleasant feelings and as a result, we have no tolerance for them. We fix them any way we know how.
Too many of us carry that same worldview into Christianity. We no longer buy the lie that faith will make you healthy, wealthy or wise. But we have our own kind of prosperity gospel. We believe that true faith will fix our negative emotions. We believe faith will save us from pain.
We may not say that, but we sure do ‘say‘ it. We ‘say‘ it when we respond to a hurting person with the promise: ‘I’ll pray for you to believe God is sovereign” – as if their tears are evidence they don’t believe. We ‘say‘ it when we follow up our confession that things are painful right now, by wiping our own tears away with a quick and almost apologetic caveat: ‘but, don’t worry, I know God is good’ . We ‘say‘ it when we feel grief and sorrow well up in our own hearts and we slap down our pain with Scripture – as if the two cannot coexist.
We have a weird twisted belief that where there is faith, tears will expire.
And we’re wrong.
Faith in God’s sovereignty, faith in God’s goodness, faith in general – was never designed to make this life hurt less.
I know that because I know this guy who trusted in God’s sovereignty more than anyone EVER and trusted in God’s goodness more than anyone EVER and He seemed to hurt a lot. (Jesus btw).
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44 ESV)
Does your faith lead you to weep over the lost? Does your trust in God’s sovereign election lead you to say with Paul that you have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in your heart? According to the Bible, those are the kind of feelings that faith produces.
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:32-36 ESV)
Do people watch you weep over death and see your love of God and man? Jesus, who knew He was about to raise Lazurus from the dead, wept and was depply moved in His sprit and greatly troubled. Maybe because Jesus – out of all the people around – knew how desperately unnatural death is; what an affront it is to the design of the Creator. What we know for sure is this: deep faith in the resurrection of the dead will not produce dry eyes at funerals.
Faith does not fix uncomfortable emotions. If anything, it fuels uncomfortable emotions. As our hearts align more with heart of God, we care more about all the ways this world refuses to line up with His desires. If you are looking for a Gospel that will save you from pain in this life – you will not find it in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Even my friends and family who have gone before me to be with Jesus are still feeling painful emotions. Even though they have NO sin, even though they are in perfect unity with the Father, they are – right now – crying out.
When our Father builds the New Heavens and the New Earth there will be no more tears. But that’s not because our feelings will finally be ‘fixed’. We will stop crying because there will no longer be a stimulus for negative feelings. We will be saved from injustice. Saved from death and darkness and sin.
Here’s the question we all must answer: are you brave enough to feel deeply for the sake of Jesus’ name? Are you bold enough to be emotional that you might reflect our Jesus to this world? Are you willing to be uncomfortable if that’s what it takes to bear His image?