Then she returned to Mary. She called Mary aside from the mourners and told her, “The Teacher is here and wants to see you.” So Mary immediately went to him. Jesus had stayed outside the village, at the place where Martha met him. When the people who were at the house consoling Mary saw her leave so hastily, they assumed she was going to Lazarus’s grave to weep. So they followed her there. (John 11:28-31)
Relate: We cannot begin to understand Job’s grief. When God allowed Satan to attack him, that old devil didn’t pull any punches. His property, gone. His home, destroyed. His children, dead. His body, tormented. To top it all off his wife has turned to him and in the bitterness of her own grief shouts out, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?!” On to the scene arrives Job’s three best friends. For a week they do exactly the right thing. Jewish culture has a custom of mourning called sitting shiva. In this, for the first week after a death, close friends and family will put their lives aside to be with those grieving. There are various traditions or ways this is carried out but the primary focus is to simply be there. This, Job’s friends did this and for them it meant sitting in silence until Job was ready to kick off a good old fashioned Jewish debate.
Martha needed explanations. Mary needed presence. When Jesus came, He met each one exactly where they were and gave to them exactly what they needed. With Martha, Jesus explained, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” With Mary… Jesus wept. But I’m getting ahead of myself. That’s not for a couple days. Before that, Jesus didn’t go directly to Mary. He didn’t intrude on her grief. Instead, He let her know that He was there and then let her in her own time (which happened to be “immediately”) come to Him.
React: Different people will react to difficult situations in different ways. Some will have to “do something”. Some will put on a seemingly outrageous show of mourning. Some will clam up. Some people will crave a crowd and others will just want to be alone. When Jesus came upon Mary and Martha He was fully there for them. He saw exactly what it was they needed and then met it. When those we know are overcome in grief the best thing we can do is to be fully there for them. That means we do not impose what we think they should need or hear on them but rather to see how best we can walk with them through their sorrow. In this “being there” might mean waiting at a distance until they are ready to come to you. Jesus didn’t impose and neither should we.
Respond: God, when those I love are suffering through grief, help me to truly be there for them. Give me the wisdom and the compassion to see what they really need and not simply impose on them what I think they should have or what I needed in my time of grief. Give me the ability to truly demonstrate love in a way they would be able to embrace and help me to not simply spew out unnecessary and potentially offensive platitudes. To all people in all circumstances, help me to be a reflection of Your love.