“Lord, If You Had Been There…”

“Lord, if you had been here…” These are the words of Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus in John 11. There, at that moment in time, when death was cruel and vile and heartless, they stood before what seemed an undefeatable valley of darkness. They wrestled with grief, and the grief was unbearable and unbeatable because grief can never be beaten, only experienced.

And so when Jesus came to them, they said it, “Lord, if…” It is the perfectly human response of a heart that is broken because hopes have been dashed and their world shattered. Someone they loved has been taken away. Life as they knew it was now different. They stood on the cliff of that dark valley and peered into the blackness and thought, “Lord, if…”

Where was Jesus? He was there in the darkness of that tomb. And before raising Lazarus, He was with Mary and Martha, weeping with them! Where is Jesus? He is forever in the midst of our darkness, in the black caverns of our life. He sees the grieving widow. He sees the grieving father and mother. He knows the pain of the journey.

Isaiah said, “He is a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). It is comforting to know that our sorrows are His sorrows and that He knows the aching sense of loss and grief. God never promised to remove our grief, only to give it purpose. Mary and Martha were united with Jesus in sadness, the grief of loss. And Jesus entered into that grief.

Many who read this article have stood on that same cliff. They have suffered the loss of someone dear. They have battled, or even are currently battling, the unmerciful giant called grief and, like Mary and Martha and every human soul who has waged that battle, we are losing the battle. There is no guarantee of tomorrow for any of us or for those dear to us.

So when darkness falls in our lives where is Jesus? We ask, “Lord, if I must walk through this valley of grief, where are you?” Scripture answers the question this way; “If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me, and the light around me to become night – but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are both alike to you.” (Ps 139:8-12)

For Mary and Martha, the darkness and grief for Lazarus was temporary. Jesus allowed it so that His power over death could be made known at the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus was there, orchestrating His plan. Out of the darkness of that tomb came a foreshadowing of his own resurrection, which would give light and hope to the entire world now that death was defeated.

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