Why are you so sad today?

Last night, my six-year-old son was ready for a bedtime story, but I told him the truth:

“I’m feeling a little sad about the day and it’s okay to be sad.  I just need  a minute before I’m ready to read.”

I think most of us had some hard days this week.

Some of us needed some time (maybe still need time) to mourn before moving on.

My son looked  a little surprise because I’m not really a sad person.  I’m mostly an even-keel kind of girl. So mom being sad probably felt unexpected.

Also, for his little kindergarten self, the world hasn’t been rocked too greatly. Sure, he’s aware that he’s missing  out on his soccer season,  time with his friends and time with his awesome-sauce teachers who we love so very much.

But he’s still happy.  He reads his books, plays with his Legos, matchbox cars and dinosaurs, swings on the swingset.  He doesn’t rush out the door in the morning or rush to activities in the evening.  He’s excited about soccer again in the fall.

For now, he’s just enjoying being together with the whole family.

That’s the sweetness for us in the middle of  sorrow.  It’s sweet to have time to rest and enjoy being together even while we mourn over losses and grieve on behalf of others who have lost  more.

It’s March.  Because of the impact  of the coronavirus, our governor closed schools for the rest of the school year.  We get it.  We know it’s needed and we know that the lives of people around us matter far more than graduation ceremonies, concerts, math bowl competitions, field trips to  Kings Dominion and band trips to Disney.

So, we feel sad and then we remember perspective.  We feel sad again and we regain perspective.  It’s just part of the upheaval we’re all handling in our own ways.

We’re not good “wait-and-see” people over here at our house, but that’s life right now.  What about high school credits?  What about an April birthday?  What about grades?  What about graduation?   What about vacation Bible school?

We’re all in this together.  We’re all mourning a loss.  We’re all having to be “wait-and-see” folks at the moment.

Maybe that’s one of my first reminders in the middle of the mess.

Paul said this:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

I need so much grace right now.  Grace for my foggy-brain because I can’t quite think straight.  Grace for feeling a lack of energy or passion—like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me.  Grace for the fact that I’m a super-planner-extraordinaire who is living in a world that cannot be planned right now.  I need grace as a mom and grace as a teacher and grace in ministry and just so very much grace.  I need grace for my anxious self and grace for my sorrowful self and grace when I just need to  take a walk and be quiet.

So, when I most need grace, I am reminded of all the grace Jesus has given me and how much others around me need grace, too.

Have mercy on us, Lord.

When my heart is most broken, I see the brokenhearted.   When my heart  is most tender, I am more tender to others who are hurting.

This is precious to Jesus, who was moved by compassion whenever he encountered the sick, the grieving, the crowds of lost people, the hungry.  Even from the cross, Jesus prayed that God would forgive the mob who crucified him.

In her study on Joseph, “Finding God Faithful ,” Kelly Minter teaches that this is indeed the very thing that changed everything in Joseph’s life.

He had been sold into slavery by his brothers, taken far away from his home and the father he loved, then wrongly accused by the wife of his master and thrown into an Egyptian prison and left to rot there.

Joseph had sorrow.  He mourned losses we hopefully will never experience.  If anyone in the world had a reason to be sad, it was Joseph.

But in the middle of all his own mess, Joseph cared about the sadness of others.  He saw Pharaoh’s baker and cupbearer in the prison and noticed they looked particularly troubled one morning.

He took the time to ask them:

“Why do you look so sad today?” (Genesis 40:7 CSB).

He listened to their stories–strange dreams that had them worried.  And it was those dreams and Joseph’s interpretation of them that God ultimately used for Joseph’s deliverance….and the deliverance  of his family…and the deliverance of Israel….and the deliverance of the entire world from famine.

How can compassion, sacrificial love, kindness, and loving like Jesus change us, change others, change the world?

For the days your heart is tender

This week I have teared up in a restaurant and in the basement of our church and in the minivan.

It’s been a bit of a cry-fest frankly.  And it doesn’t stop there.  I’ve been ready to cry over documentaries and books about wars fought between 70 and 150 years ago.

Seriously.  A war documentary made me cry.

I don’t normally consider myself a “cryer,” but this week has been a  week of sad news for those around me.  I mourn with the brokenhearted wife, with the brokenhearted mother, with the brokenhearted family.

And I find my heart a little battered and bruised just by feeling the weight of sorrow:  the divorce, the goodbyes, the mourning, and the prodigals.  It’s been tenderized by a hammer of hurt, so now I’m in need of tissues everywhere I go.

Maybe that’s the way it should be, though.

Not that people should be hurting or going through hard times and not that I need to carry a box of Kleenex with me, but that we should be gentle enough to notice, compassionate enough to care, and tenderhearted enough to mourn with those who mourn and weep with those who weep.

Jesus did that, as He stood just outside his friend Lazarus’s tomb and the Savior and Messiah heard the wails of those in grief.  That’s when we read those two powerful  words:

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

He didn’t wail and scream like those around them.  He wasn’t in despair and He knew He’d see Lazarus walk out of that tomb within a few minutes.

But He felt compassion for the crowd and so His tears fell because these people were hurting and because they felt overwhelmed by deep  sorrow.

Do we weep also?

Do our hearts break at the brokenheartedness around us?

Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32 NASB)

May that be us.  Oh, may we be the ones covering others with kindness, forgiveness, and caring.

But if that is us, what then?

Jesus walked right up  to Lazarus’s tomb and demanded resurrection.  He brought life to the dead simply by the power of His words.

As much as I wish I could say the word  and heal the hurts of those around me, mend the marriages, raise the dead, carry the prodigal home, I cannot.   I cannot fix the broken or mend the mess.

But our compassion does still matter.

It propels us into kindness, practical acts that make a difference.

It stirs us to intercession and passionate prayer on the behalf of others.

It compels us to share the heart of Jesus, who wept when others wept.

It emboldens us to share with others the reminder that this is our God:  the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.

That’s what Paul said:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV). 

God’s very character is that of compassion and comfort.  He never wastes the stories of our own pain, those times we ourselves trudged through valleys of hurt or sorrow.   He redeems those hard seasons by carrying us through them and then allowing us to be that comfort and that compassion for others in the future.

And as much as suffering abounds, God’s comfort abounds, too.  He is close in our times of need.

He draws us in.  He hides us away in places of refuge.  He holds our tears in a bottle, never missing even one of them.  He sends others to care for us.

And then He sends us out to care for others.

How can we minister to the hurting this week?

And Then There’s Cancer

“God must have a better plan.”
“God always works things out for the best.”
“You can’t out-give God.”
“God always provides.  Look at the birds and the flowers.  He’ll take care of your needs, too.”
“God always comes through.”
“God’s timing is perfect.”
“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

They’re the fairy tale endings of the Christian faith, the trite promises and pat religious phrases we find ourselves spewing out simply when we don’t know how else to explain it when life is hard and overwhelming and scary.

Like when there’s cancer.

Like when there’s starvation and bloating hunger in villages where there simply is no food—not in anyone’s home, not in a local church running a food pantry, not at a grocery store where you can beg for a loaf of bread from other shoppers.

How do we dare make life sound simple, flowery, and easy when it’s not?  This is the conversation I had with a friend this week.

A few days later, in a sanctuary filled with mourners, corporately grieving the loss of a beautiful Christian woman to breast cancer, a few stood up to share their memories and thoughts about her life.  The rest of us passed tissues down the rows and echoed sniffles.

One woman stood and said something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.  In one of their last conversations together, sitting across from a woman so ill from the cancer recurrence filling her lungs with fluid and sapping strength from her limbs, they agreed that they felt beaten down by the promises in Scripture.

They knew death was near and they did not think they’d see the healing, deliverance, restoration, and happy ending they had so longed for, they had prayed for, and that the “happy filter” of God’s promises would make you expect.

So now what?

I remember the moment also when I sat by my dad’s death bed.  He was decrepit, a large man shrunken down to frail bones.  He was living in a sick shell of a body.  Once so witty and smart, boisterous and just plain big in his personality and manner, now he was a trapped soul, mostly in a coma, no longer in control of his body or mind—totally dependent on others, mostly unaware, mostly unresponsive.

I believed and I still believe that the God who could call Lazarus to step out of a tomb, throw off grave clothes and come to life again could have healed my dad at any time, even when death seemed imminent, as in any second near.

But He didn’t.  God chose not to heal that time.  He chose not to heal the woman we remembered at her memorial service this weekend.

What then?

In tears, the woman sharing at the memorial service said that when they felt totally beaten down, like their faith had just been battered and bashed, her friend facing death said, “Then we must pray and ask God to make us more tender.”

Please make me tender, Lord.  Use these times of sadness and the seasons we don’t understand, the moments when faith is so hard to stand on and the promises of Scripture seem too simple to hold true, please then make my heart tender again. 

What other response can there be at times but bitterness?

It’s something I’d never considered before, but both Paul and Peter urged believers to be tenderhearted:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

and

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).

This tender heart so often develops when we ourselves feel broken and beaten down and we are made soft and receptive in the process.ephesians4

If our faith depends on quick answers to prayer and fairy tale lives with superficially happy endings, we’ll be hardened to the needs of others, uncomprehending when they share out of their pain and unmoved by compassion when we see their brokenness.

Not only that, but if our faith doesn’t depend on the Rock of God and His character, but instead stands only on happy (and often misquoted and taken out of context) Christian catch-phrases, we’ll watch the wind and waves of the storm demolish and destroy our houses on the sand (Matthew 7).

We don’t necessarily need enough faith to calm any storm, to walk on the water in the midst of a tempest or sit unmoved and unafraid when our boat seems ready to sink. We just need enough faith to stretch out our hand to Jesus as we sink and cry out, “Lord save me” (Matthew 14:30).

Even that is enough for Jesus to hold us up out of the waves.

Let’s be honest today.  It’s not always easy to sing, “‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus.”  Sometimes it’s downright difficult.  It’s murky and hazed over and difficult to see.  Sometimes it’s desperately painful.

But we don’t have to have all the answers.  In fact, we don’t really need to say much of anything at all.  Certainly, we don’t have to pretend that it’s easy or shrug mourning off our shoulders with little more than, “it’s all for the best.”

Instead, we can ask for God to make our hearts tender, soft and pliable in His hands because of the pain we’ve endured.  And we can reach out one desperate hand and cry out, “Lord, save me.” Sometimes, that’s all we can honestly say and that’s enough.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.