I love the Psalms as much as the next melancholy Christian, but sometimes they weigh heavily on my fragile, impatient, heart. Particularly one familiar theme – repeated in much of the rest of the Old Testament as well – that though the enemy encircles us and we can’t see straight for fear or grief or pain – ultimately, someday, God will be glorified and all will be well.
This narrative sits uncomfortably with some of us, I think, because the God in it can seem so distant, so concerned with himself and his glory, to the exclusion of us, and consequently, so terrifyingly willing to sit and watch the world burn.
Jesus though, is the truest and fullest revelation of who God is – he is the “image of the invisible God.” And Jesus doesn’t sit and watch us – like an investor tracking the market's rise and fall – to keep tabs on how much glory God is accruing by our patient endurance of suffering and death.
Instead, Jesus comes to be with us. To bear our pain and grief. And to act - not to “bring glory to God” in some abstract, spiritualized, esoteric way. But to intimately, concretely, lovingly, gently, affirm the value of our individual human lives, our tender hearts, and our specific experiences.
When Jesus and the disciples hear that Lazarus has died, Thomas says, (maybe aiming for a few “God’s glory” related brownie points): “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” But the erasure of individual human selves and lives and experiences is not what Jesus has in mind when he speaks of God’s “glory.” No, if we are to go by Jesus’s actions in this story, God’s glory seems to be inextricably connected to our good.
When Martha comes to Jesus, distressed by Lazarus's death, Jesus does not offer her future hope alone. He does not lecture her on God’s glory or how to be content or how to suffer well. He gives her back the brother she lost.
Reflecting on this Jesus is so comforting to me. Our lives often feel like one long season of Lent – our experiences, like the psalmist, more of thirsting, weeping, and mourning, than of feasting or of joy. But Jesus gently reminds us that Easter is coming. And that our lives – terrible, beautiful, slipping through our fingers – are not our own and are not lost, but are kept safe and made meaningful in our Jesus who loves us.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
I am a wife, mom, lawyer, and caregiver currently in need of a good book recommendation. I pretended to like “Wolf Hall” and desperately loved “Lila.” What should I read next?