Dealing with the sickness and death of a loved one is a common part of life. Nearly everyone has to go through it at some point. And yet, it seems like somehow, people who have been through this should have a physical change in appearance-maybe green hair or purple eyes or a stamp on their foreheads or something. The simple notion “my mother died” does not even scratch the surface of the deep, emotional wound inside.
Two weeks after my mother passed away, I was with a group of Christian women that I hadn’t seen for a few months. Of course they asked the obligatory, “How are you doing?” After barely waiting for an answer, they moved on to talking about the most recent snowstorm. That was it. They moved on. And there I stood, reliving the emotions of the past few weeks and months. It was then that I really realized that I have done this very same thing out of my own discomfort and awkwardness with others who have lost loved ones. I needed to be better. The answer to all of life’s problems can be found within the scriptures. In John 11, we read the account of Lazarus’ death and how those around him dealt with it.
First, we see that Jesus had spent time in the lives of Lazarus and his sisters. They knew He loved them.
John 11:1-3 tell us, “Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’”
One key lesson here is to be involved in people’s lives before a crisis. Jesus loved them well before this, so it was natural for them to call on Him during the crisis. It is important to be connected in other people’s lives as His church. We can spend more time together outside of worship and Bible class, being a part of each other’s lives. We can get to know our acquaintances and co-workers better so that when they are ready, we can be there to show Christ through our actions. The more we get to know people, the easier it will be for us to tell when there is something going on with them. The age-old saying fits here: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Second, Mary and Martha looked to the Lord for their comfort and hope.
John 11: 21-22 tell us about Martha: “Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.’”
Mary said something similar in verse 32. They were dependent on what the Lord would do. When disaster strikes, do we turn to worldly people and answers rather than to God and His people and His answers? In this example, Jesus shows us how to be a comfort to others, but ultimately the comfort He gives is best because He is the Lord. He is the one that can always be depended upon. He is the One who provides the hope of an eternity together with Him. If we are consistently trying to follow God and His word by daily meditation in His word, attending Bible classes and worship regularly, it won’t be a big shock to our system to look to the Lord for our comfort and hope when we are really down and out.
Third, We find out that they listened to His teachings.
John 11:23-27 reveal this: “Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.’”
These facts were not a surprise to Martha at Lazarus’ death. It was obvious that they had spoken of these topics before this time. Sometimes I think we might say all the right things about Heaven. We want all of our loved ones to be there with us and to say all of those things we are supposed to say, but we don’t really live like we believe what He teaches. If we truly believe His word about salvation, lifestyle and worship, we will be trying to teach everyone we know. We need to have these tough discussions before we arrive at someone’s death bed. Unless the Lord returns first, that day is coming for everyone. While we have opportunity, let’s show our loved ones how much we really care about them by listening to His teachings and sharing them like souls are dependent on it.
The story goes on to show that the weeping of the sisters and the other Jews caused Jesus to be deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
We see a glimpse into Jesus’ love and compassion in John 11:33-35: “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.”
In the past, it has always puzzled me as to why Jesus wept. He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Yet, He was still “deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” The death of a loved one is an emotional, indescribable experience. When He saw Mary weeping, that troubled Him. When we are involved in others’ lives and they are hurting, it will hurt us too. Romans 12:15 tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”
Lastly, God was glorified by what was done.
John 11:38-44 finish the story: “So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’ When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’ Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”
In my experience with my mother, she did not rise from the dead, but God was certainly glorified. I saw first-hand how His love works. Family and friends traveled hundreds of miles to be there with us for her funeral. Sisters in Christ from all over the country sent cards and well wishes. My coworkers provided food and time off for my family and me. Our home congregation has been so very giving and kind. My husband has taken wonderful care of me. My husband and sister-in-law sent me texts every morning for the first week that we were back home when I was missing my mom’s daily texts. My sister and I have gotten closer than ever before. And I have made it my aim to learn to be a better support to others who are hurting.
by Heidi Sprouse
Heidi Sprouse and her family work with the Rocky Ford church of Christ, in Rocky Ford, Colorado. Her husband, Steven, is the preacher there. They have two children, Hannah, 13, and Caleb, 10. Heidi also works as a secretary for the local school district. She enjoys spending time with her family.