I’m feeling a sense of sadness today.
I work for Southwest Airlines, and I frequently have the chance to give out my buddy standby passes to those around me. So far, I’ve given them out to friends for adventures, mutual connections for birthday surprises, and refugees for their journeys home.
This week, I gave out my first buddy passes to friends for funerals.
There are no good answers for this, for why death comes to steal, kill, and destroy. There are no easy responses for why Jesus, who has come that we might have “life abundant,” doesn’t sustain earthly life for those we love. Does he not do so because he is unable? Because he is fake? Because he doesn’t care?
We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of deaths due to COVID in America alone this year. More people have died from the coronavirus this year than from the flu the past fives years combined. I can’t help but imagine the million stories of these people, the hopes and fears bound together in these almost 500,000 lives. Is God good, and does He care?
Does He hold us when we break?
I’m not entirely sure about the answers to these questions. I could tell you the answer that theological experts might come together to share: they might anchor us in truth and remind us of eternity’s glory. Or I could share what most nihilists tend to believe: that there isn’t a God and we are without hope.
Or I could speak for where many of us average people might find ourselves: we believe in hope, goodness, and love, and we believe in a God who is sovereign and gracious. We also feel small, unsure, and wavering more than we would like. We have faith, but it isn’t much. We have faith, but it’s the size of a mustard seed (if we’re being generous). We have faith, but it’s in things unseen, and it’s scary and impossible at times. Our faith ebbs and flows, rises and falls. Sometimes, grace enables us to believe what is good and true. Other times, doubt claims the loudest voice. When our world is upended and our faith is small, we need this:
We need someone who can hold us when we break.
When I ask my counselor tough questions, she very rarely gives me direct answers. Instead, most frequently, she reminds me that she is with me. In fact, she tells me this over and over. No matter what I do, she wants me to know that she has my back. She is ready to listen when I need her. She is thinking of me during hard conversations. She is celebrating me in the good. She is with me.
In other words, she holds me when I break.
When I think of my hope for my friends and for all of us walking forward in grief, my main prayer isn’t for certainty, although I know that certainty is helpful. My main prayer isn’t for knowledge, although I know that knowledge is helpful. My prayer for my friends is for people who will embody the Jesus who wept. My hope for them is people who will surround them in circles of love, care, compassion, and tenderness. The method doesn’t matter. Virtually, over text, in person, socially distant, whatever this season requires will work. What matters is presence and the reminder that they are not alone.
In scary days, we need others who can orient us toward hope. In hard seasons, we need a community who can focus our eyes on what is unseen. When grief crashes down, we need a church who can walk with us in the tension of unanswered questions.
In other words, we need a family who can hold us when we break.
In this season, may we find these people, and may we be these people. There is enough room for us all, enough space for our questions and our fears and our doubts and our grief. There is room for you. There is room for me. As we show up for one another in the pain, we will embody a reminder of this:
The God who loves us will hold us when we break.
If this feels close to your heart, you might find value in reflecting on the following questions:
- Where do you most experience the compassion of others in your life?
- Where do you experience the compassion of God in your life?
- Who can you go to when you break?
- Who will call you when they break?
- How can you allow Jesus to weep with you and console you in times of grief?
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.2 Corinthians 1:3-4