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A Bible story just for me: Trauma

When Jesus feels, but he doesn’t change the situation.

On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 a.m., the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City was bombed, claiming 168 victims —including 19 children. Next to the site, a statue stands at St. Joseph Old Cathedral, the oldest parish in Oklahoma City, which also had damage. It’s a statue of Jesus with his head buried in his hands, turning away from the site of the bombing. The statue is a depiction of the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Many devotionals on the bombing and on other tragedies have been written on this verse. The idea is generally that we have a Savior who sympathizes with us. A comforting thought indeed! But Jesus was able to change the situation and raise Lazarus to life! If you have experienced trauma, this account might leave you thinking, “When Jesus is sad, he has the power to fix it for himself, but I can’t do that. I remain with my experiences. Nothing changes.”

The raising of Lazarus

But let’s revisit this account. Read John 11 and imagine that you are one of the people in verse 19. As you read, consider these questions in light of some of the experiences in your own life:

  • How would you comfort Mary and Martha at the loss of their brother
  • What is your reaction to the words that Jesus says in John 11:25,26? What expectations do you have of him?
  • After seeing Jesus weeping, are you more like the people in verse 36 or verse 37?
  • What is your reaction to this miracle and what that meant for Mary and Martha?
  • What characteristics of Jesus stand out to you as you observe his emotions and the miracle?

How we face tragedy

Did the story sound a little different when you were one of the observers? What a profound struggle for us! When Jesus was sad, he could just make it go away. Can you? Has Jesus done that for you? Was Jesus just curing his own hurt? Why did he change the situation in the midst of his sadness and the sadness of his friends? What are you meant to learn from this?

The time will come when we all will face tragedy. Maybe you’re going through it right now. As you recall this story, perhaps you will remember Jesus’ heart for his people, how he refused to accept death as an inevitability, his confidence even while standing at the grave, or his power over death. Can you think of other thoughts to remember?

Perhaps you will remember another time that Jesus was tempted to fix his own situation—when the mockers were crying out to him on the cross, “If you are the Son of God, save yourself!” But he didn’t. Instead, with you on his heart, he died for you.

As you meditate on your own experiences in light of this account, complete the sentence below with a defining characteristic of Jesus. Consider a characteristic that you need in the face of your tragedies that will help you remember what Jesus was and is for you.

Complete this sentence:

This account shows me that Jesus was _______________________ FOR ME.

May this be your reminder that Jesus is your complete Savior . . . the Savior that you need today. May Christ bring you comfort in his life for you.

This is the second article in a six-part series on applying biblical narratives to our lives.

Extra content:

Greg Lyon provides some possible answers to the questions he poses in the above Bible study.

How would you comfort Mary and Martha at the loss of their brother?
Sometimes our own experiences lead us to a better understanding of what words to say (or not say). Considering your own experience, might I suggest that the words, “I understand what you are going through” may not be the best words to use? Your experience is different. Perhaps a simple hug and a sympathetic ear is all Mary and Martha would need. They were frustrated. Could you be the person to listen to their frustration but then remind them of the life and resurrection that is theirs through faith in Christ?

What is your reaction to the words that Jesus says in John 11:25,26? What expectations do you have of him?
As Jesus said those words, do you suppose that Martha was thinking, “He’s going to raise my brother from the dead?”, or was she just hearing the niceties of this kind friend? Consider her response, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” It could be that in her shock of her brother’s death, she didn’t even comprehend the full weight of the words that Jesus was saying. If you are just an observer, perhaps this just sounds like a nice thing you’re supposed to say. So be patient with those who aren’t fully grasping the comfort of the gospel in the midst of their shock. Be patient and listen and don’t be afraid to remind them of the gospel . . . at some point it will likely hit home even if it doesn’t in the moment.

After seeing Jesus weeping, are you more like the people in verse 36 or verse 37?
This question is meant for you to consider the different reactions that people can have to the exact same situation. Some saw the incredible sympathy of Jesus and others questioned him and his ability to save. There are times that we hear strong Christian people say things (or perhaps we say them ourselves) that don’t sound too Christian in the midst of trauma. Satan is working overtime in our weakest moments. With that said, I think it’s important that we are able to safely say what we are really thinking rather than pretend like we’re not thinking it. God knows our every thought so we might as well say it out loud! At the same time, it is important for us to use our ears to let others say what it is that they are thinking. As a listener, we then can have a better idea of what to say once we have heard what the person is thinking. So as you assess yourself in this account or as you put yourself in the place of a listener, understand that not everyone is seeing the same thing. But God’s grace remains constant and unchanging in all of it!

What is your reaction to Jesus’ miracle and what that meant for Mary and Martha?
Certainly, amazement is in order! But think about this in terms of the next time you lose a loved one. Would you expect that Jesus would show up and raise your loved one from the dead? Probably not. But you saw Jesus’ defiance in the face of death. That same defiance that Jesus showed in the face of Lazarus’ death, he will show in death of our loved ones as well. We can see that death is not the end. Death is not what we were meant for. Jesus proves that in the account of Lazarus, and we can hang on that reality when death confronts us.

What overall characteristics of Jesus stand out to you as you observe his emotions and the miracle?
You can take this wherever you want. Are you struck by his power over death? His defiance in the face of death? His compassion and sympathy? His raw emotion? One person mentioned to me that they were struck by Jesus in John 11:39 . . . he walked right into the odor-filled tomb! Jesus wasn’t threatened by Lazarus’ stink . . . he isn’t threatened by mine either. What a profound thought!

Author: Greg Lyon
Volume 107, Number 02
Issue: February 2020

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