I have always been a sucker for a good cry. All growing up my mom would encourage me to just “cry it out” whenever I felt upset, off, confused, or even remotely unpleasant. Thus, crying has served as a sort of homeopathic cure-all throughout the first three decades of my life. Whenever I feel this urge coming on, I don’t fight it; I embrace it and plan to make a night of it. I curl up with something sweet and a sad book or sad movie and let it flow. Needless to say, this practice has been an interesting concept to try to explain to husBen. “No, I’m fine, I just need to cry. No, nothing is actually wrong but everything is kind of wrong. Just give me a good 10 minutes to cry it out and I’ll be back in the game.” Sure, I guess it sounds a little weird. But for me, crying is like detoxing. Though the purging process is less-than-pleasant, and the cry hangover is even worse, once all is said and done I feel like a new human being. Big fan of emotive purging.
I’m learning that I want to feel sad for a moment and move on to something happy. There’s a certain window of time for sadness, but once the storm has passed, I’m ready to wipe my eyes, fix my makeup, and move on.
It’s been nearly a week since the mass shooting in Las Vegas. I felt sad and heavy on Monday. I read articles with horrified intrigue on Tuesday. I felt sobered learning each the victims names and seeing each victim’s face in a 5 minute video on Thursday. And today, my mind swirls with my plans for the weekend, an upcoming trip, and the unending to do list. Today my feed is littered with pretty things, happy quotes, puppies and food. It’s almost as if this shooting didn’t happen this very week.
The world has completely stopped for so many, but my world appears to have moved on. It’s my prerogative to feel as much as I want to feel or am willing to feel. I can either dive into the horror or distract myself entirely with a few clicks and a few scrolls.
This is sin.
In this day and age we do not have the luxury of claiming ignorance in the midst of catastrophe. Ignorance is for those who lack the ability to become aware. No, that’s not us. We have to claim negligence. We have neglected to learn, neglected to investigate, neglected to weep with those who weep, with those who are still weeping.
Grieving is a long process. And grieving alongside those who continue to grieve is not glamorous or fun. But it’s biblical. And it’s a discipline I must purpose myself to acquire.
Jesus knew sadness well: “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief… surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” (Isaiah 53:3, 4)
He knows the sorrows of all of humanity: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8).
His sorrows have led him to have compassion on us: “For it was fitting that he for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering…For we do not have a high priest who his unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 2:10, 4:15).
Our king knows suffering, knows sorrow, knows grief, not in theory, but in actuality. He wept with those who wept. Sometimes I fall into the thinking that Christians are supposed to be happy all the time. But this too is not entirely true:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4). (emphasis mine)
And though Jesus was acquainted with grief, he simultaneously had gladness beyond all of his companions. He was and is complete joy. So the question becomes how can we be both aware of suffering and eternally hopeful without compartmentalizing our emotions?
John Piper describes the emotional juxtaposition eloquently in his book, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, “But if it is not glorious to be gloomy, neither is it glorious to be glib. The carefree merriment of a ballroom gala and the irrepressible joy in a Russian gulag are not the same. One is trite, the other triumphant. One is glib, the other glorious” (37).
Triumphant instead of trite. Glorious instead of glib. Our king is in the business of bringing beauty out of ashes. And when we overlook the ashes we cheapen the beauty.
As believers, we are in this thing together and we have the opportunity and the call to be the aroma of Christ to the rest of the world. Looking to Romans 12:9-21, “The Mark of a True Christian” are our guide, we cannot overlook the call to empathize:
Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The text implies that suffering will come, tribulation will come, evil will come. We are commanded to enter into these spaces with those directly affected.
In attempt to start developing a discipline of empathy, I’m going to start with a simple, easy-to-remember prayer schedule.
Sunday: Safety from Sin
“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matt. 6:13
Monday: Missional Mindset
“Your kingdom come,” Matt. 6:10
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” Luke 10:2
Tuesday: Trippin’ on Trespasses
“and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” Matt. 6:12
Wednesday: Weep with the World
“Weep with those who weep” Rom. 12:15
“Rejoice with those who rejoice” Rom. 12:15
Friday: Friends & Family
“Give us this day our daily bread” Matt. 6:11
Saturday: Sup, Haters?
“love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matt. 5:44
Join me in weeping with those who weep, and staying in the uncomfortable moments to remember, all the while holding fast to the unshakeable hope of Christ’s return.