When Jesus saw her weeping, and
the Jews who had come with her also weeping,
he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
And he said, Where have you laid him? …
When he had said these things,
he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus,
come out. (John 11:33-34,43)
By Stephen W. Hiemstra
The two-part form of a lament sets us on a spiritual journey. When Jesus weeps, the dead are raised (Mark 5:38–41). When Jesus dies, our lives are redeemed and we find hope (1 Pet 1:3), as the Apostle Paul writes:
that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:10-11)
Paul advises us to imitate Christ and to place our emotions in God’s service (e.g. Rom 12:14–15) so that the physical world might itself be redeemed (Rom 8:22).
Christian hope redeems our mourning. The hope of resurrection permits us to look beyond the grief in this life to our future in Christ, as the Prophet Jeremiah wrote so eloquently:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)
We hear an echo of Jeremiah in the Sermon on the Mount, when he writes about anxiety:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matt 6:25)
Anxiety is a form of grieving over life’s daily challenges—what to eat or what to wear—in a kind of despair over present circumstances.
As Christians, we know that present circumstances give way to a future in Christ—death does not have the final word (1 Thess 4:13). Because our future is in Christ, we are like children who can delight in hearing scary stories knowing that the stories have a happy ending. The Apostle Paul writes:
For godly grief [θεὸν λύπη; “theo lupe”] produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor 7:10)
The word for grief that Paul uses means: “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” (BDAG 4625). We grieve over our sin; we lament over our brokenness; and once we have poured it all out, we turn to God and repent, as the Psalmist writes:
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (Ps 126:5–6)
This sounds similar to Luke’s version of the Second Beatitude: “Honored are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21)
Through godly grief and repentance God gently leads us to salvation