Crying Out

Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

~ John 11:21,32


Lord, if you had been there….

These are words that I have uttered many times….. almost always in times of distress and grief and when I feel that God is silent and uncaring….

Other words that I have spoken are – Where are you God? Why God? Lord, have mercy….Christ have mercy…..

Grief is raw in this scripture from the Gospel of John chapter 11.

The Disciples, Martha, Mary, Jesus and their friends and family are mourning the loss of their brother and friend Lazarus.

This is a beautiful story rich in imagery and deep in meaning. It touches upon the universal truth in all of creation. One of the disciples, Thomas,  reveals this truth when he says, “Let us  also go, that we may die with him”

Thomas is clear – we are all in death right now. We are always in the process of dying. We are always changing – letting go of old ways

This is the call of Lent – to remember that from dust we come and to dust we go. As we walk toward the cross we are to die to our old selves and rise up a new creation.

But this facing our own fragility, our own mortality is hard work. Most often we would rather deny it, ignore it, save that reality for another time. It is easier to metaphorically – abstractly die. Far easier to talk about it – to understand it in our minds than to live through it.

Now that the collective and global threat of suffering and death are thrust into our reality this journey with Jesus through the wilderness takes on a completely different tenor and meaning.

And this is where I find Martha and Mary’s response authentic and true.

They lament.

And this lament leads to healing and wholeness.

Martha and Mary both cry out – Lord, if you had been there!

Certainly this reveals  prior thoughts – Lord – where are you? Why do you tarry?

The sister’s utter the same words but the ways they call out are refreshingly different.

There is no right way to cry out to God.

Martha is so certain – so steadfast in her belief and confession – Jesus you are the Messiah – the son of God – the one coming into the world

Mary’s grief is embodied – she falls to the ground Lord, if you had been there…. her tears express everything.

I love how Jesus interacts with Martha and Mary as they express their feelings to Him. ’His calm non judging presence, his assurance, and his empathy.

Jesus weeps!

Jesus responds in the way that each can hear him and in a way that begins the process of healing and wholeness.

Crying out – speaking the truth of how we feel, we acknowledge the way that suffering and death make us feel.

We must lament or rejoice in the reality that we see.

God can hear us – God can feel it – God can take it– and God will cry with us!

Crying out opens us to new life.

And when we cry out to God in our pain and suffering we begin the work of healing and wholeness.

Let us wake up and cry out!

Lord, where are you? Lord, if you had been there?

Lord, Have mercy on us! Christ have mercy!

Friends – Nothing can separate us from the Love of God – not even death (Romans 8:38-39).

God is here; in our homes, in the hospital, on the street

Jesus is here; drying tears on hurt faces

The Spirit is here; setting free those who are held captive

Raising us up from death into life

For God’s love has won.[i]

Ann Weems, in her book “Psalms of Lament” offers this image of Jesus:

Jesus wept,

     and in his weeping,

     he joined himself forever

     to those who mourn.

He stands now throughout all time,

     this Jesus weeping,

     with his arms about the weeping ones:

“Blessed are those who mourn,

     for they shall be comforted.”

He stands with the mourners

     for his name is God-with-us.

Jesus wept.

“Blessed are those who weep, for they shall be comforted.” Someday. Someday God will wipe the tears from Rachel’s eyes.

In the godforsaken, obscene quicksand of life,

     there is a deafening alleluia

     rising from the souls

     of those who weep,

     and of those who weep with those who weep.

If you watch, you will see

     the hand of God

     putting the stars back in their skies

     one by one.[ii]


This week we are invited to practice Lament. Remember there is no “right way” to Lament.

Turn to God – Cry Out  – trust in God’s healing touch, comforting presence, and steadfast love.


Image: Anointed by Lauren Wright Pittman, 2018

[i] Inspired by last line of Andrew King’s poem Love That Has No Limits

[ii] Ann Weems, Psalms of Lament, (Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 1995), xxi – xxii.

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