For The Grieving Girl This Christmas
At Christmas when we celebrate Emmanuel, God with us, we usually imagine baby Jesus wrapped in the arms of Mary. But what if this Christmas we imagine our Emmanuel more realistically, with His arms wrapped around us.
A few days ago I received a text from one of my best friends that made my heart break. She was crying and drowning in grief from repeated, life-altering heartbreaks. I knew of her troubles, but what made my heart ache for her that night was this text, “I just wish I had someone to hug me.” Oh! This best friend made me want to get in my car and drive an hour away to where she lives to give her that hug.
For days, I repeatedly prayed that the Lord would fill her heart with joy once again, that the Lord would make His presence so surreal to her all loneliness flees, and that He would eventually give back the years the locust stole from her.
This morning, as I read my Bible on a plane, I was overwhelmed by the story of Lazarus. Not because of the amazing miracle Jesus did by calling a man who had been dead for a week out of a tomb—but the hidden, quiet miracle of how close he was to Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha.
The story begins by the sisters sending word to Jesus that their beloved brother was sick. They waited for what felt like an eternity for Jesus to arrive, and when he finally did, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.
Now I’d like to insert a little historical context: most ancient Jewish families waited three days to bury their dead to be sure they had indeed passed. So we can conclude Lazarus had been dead for seven days and with him the pair of sisters had buried their hope of seeing Him again on Earth.
The grief of knowing Jesus could have healed their brother was almost unbearable. The sisters had sent word. They waited patiently on the Lord to arrive. But their worst nightmare came and went without a word from Jesus.
Both sisters told Jesus, “If you had been there my brother would not have died.” Martha, with an abundance of radical faith followed up with, “But I know that even now God will you whatever you ask.”
Jesus comforted Martha with words of assurance. He told her what was about to happen; “Your brother will rise again.”
But Jesus comforted Mary entirely differently. When she fell at His feet weeping for the second time in her life (this is the same Mary who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair), the Bible says Jesus was deeply moved. He went with her to the tomb and there Jesus wept.
I can picture our precious Jesus with His arms wrapped around the sisters He loved so much, weeping right along with them. He wasn’t weeping simply because He was sad, He knew what He was about to do! Jesus wept because He was 100% human and the sight of His beloved’s grieving moved Him to tears too.
Once more, the Bible says that Jesus was “deeply moved,” and Jesus went to work.
“Take away the stone,” He ordered.
Martha, the sister who, not just a few verses before, told Jesus she believed God would do whatever He asked, warned Jesus, “By this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Jesus replied with an earth-shattering line: “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
Then He prays to the Father and orders Lazarus to come out of his tomb.
Let’s back up a little to the time when Mary and Martha were hopeless in despair. They had faith in Jesus! Why didn’t He come through for them before and save them from the heartache? He answers this, not to the sisters, but to His disciples while he was on the way to them.
“Lazarus is dead and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe,” Jesus said.
Read that again… “So that you may believe.”
Jesus allows pain to enter our lives not to crush us, but to transform us so that we might know that He is and will always be with us, from the depths of despair to the mountain tops that feel like we’re so close to Heaven we could touch it.
Christmas is the celebration of Christ as Emmanuel, “God with us,” and this is just one precious story of Jesus being with us. He is just as present in your life today as He was for Mary and Martha.
If you are grieving too this Christmas rest in the arms of Emmanuel. It’s okay to weep, but know that you are not weeping to Jesus, but with Him like Mary. Take hold of His words like Martha and believe because though you weep now, God is going to move for you. Cling to the promise, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.”
Because of this story, I know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus has His arms wrapped around my friend, giving her that hug she so desperately needs, just like He did for Mary. Sister, your Emmanuel is with you too. He holds you and weeps with you whether you feel it or not.
At the beginning of the story Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death,” and beloved, if you believe in Him your story won’t either.