“This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” -John 11:4
“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Matthew 5:4
The Gospel is full of paradoxes. “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) and "unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3) are to name a few. Like many other areas in the Bible, mourning is something that follows such a pattern.
November is a month in which we celebrate the saints who have gone before us, and pray for those who have passed from this life. It is a time which begins with sorrow and ends with the celebration of Thanksgiving, or gratitude to God. These opportunities call us to be grateful through grief.
Praying on this theme, I am struck by the two figures of Jesus and Mary Magdalen in this image by James Tissot. Mary is a woman who truly looks fatigued, and her body is weighed down by a loss which she is experiencing. It is as though there is no strength in her body left to give. Her eyes are dark, as though they have shed many tears, and her hands fold in a lifeless way of surrender to the Lord.
As I write this, I am processing my own form of grief. Giving up a life-giving community to work with the Lord in a new path, I left precious friendships, familiar streets, and human encounters that I loved. In this wrestling with God, I have found all the more that this is most especially where I find the Lord. I find Him, not without the grief, but rather, when I embrace the grief and am authentic with Him in it.
Very often, grief can be something we want to avoid. It hurts to stop and allow pain. This passage in God's word challenges us in this. Jesus shows us that we are called to follow Him.
Grief is an opportunity for love. It is a time to be loved by the Lord, and an opportunity for relationship, gratitude, and connection. When we have no strength left, it is then that we realize that we need others. In such moments, we are called to relationship.
Scripture tells us that Jesus wept. Grief is acknowledging something – that we had a good in our lives – even if just for a time. Grief points out to us the receiving of a gift, and calls us into relationship with the Giver of gifts.
In this image and passage, I see Martha’s exhaustion and relate to her. I bring my own loss to Jesus, and say to Him:
“If you had been here, I would not have lost this. Why have you taken my heart, Lord?”
And He responds:
“This is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” -John 11:4
Loss is an opportunity to embrace the Lord, and to have Him weep with us. In such an exchange, we find Him.
Sister, what loss are you experiencing, and how can your heart be brought to a renewed gratitude? How is the Lord asking you to receive Him in this? Give this to Him and let Him act.
Citation for image: James Tissot. Jesus Wept. 1886-1896, Brooklyn Museum, https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/4536,public domain.