Daily D – John 20:15
“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” JOHN 20:15 (NLT)
Every heart knows its own sorrow. We tend to move in the direction of our focus. If we focus on our losses and sorrows, what will fill our hearts and overflow our lives?
What could we focus on instead? At the risk of gross oversimplification, and at the further risk of appearing to ignore the realities of grief and loss, we can look toward a preferred future. Things as they are do not have to remain as they are. Pause and acknowledge that years of therapy and many hours of prayer may well stand between the realities of present grief and loss and a preferred future. Focusing on the loss alone, however, prevents positive change. Focusing on the preferred future draws us into productive and positive renewal.
Notice Jesus’ question: “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus acknowledged Mary’s loss. He allowed her to express her grief. He did not immediately step in like a Power of Positive Thinking guru on a stage and shout, “If you can see it you can be it!” No.
He was the one she sought. He was the one she needed. He was the one who was about to turn all of the wrongs ever done into the death knells of death itself. Even so, he took the time to allow her to experience the full and final measure of grief. It is a sin to rob a grieving heart of the full weight of loss. Grief must be acknowledged. Death is real. It separates close loved ones. It is always untimely. It hurts with its own kind of agony.
Job loss, family problems, and so many other grief-inducing issues cause people to pause. We dare not rush them through these moments of assessment, reassessment, and recalibration. Instead, we do what Jesus did and help them process aloud what is going on in their hearts.
Thankfully, Jesus did not leave Mary in her grief. Notice again the simple and powerful love he demonstrated and models. As Mary began to wander further into her hopeless future, he arrested her steps with a single, precious word: “Mary!” He called her by name. He knew her name. He loved that name. He loved Mary. Mary loved Jesus and embraced him with such vigor he had to ask her to let go. Can you hear his laugh, can you hear her sobs, as he spoke?
The next three times Jesus speaks in this chapter, he begins with these words: “Peace be with you.” Terror, grief, and loss come into every life. Jesus is always with us in those moments of distress. He calls us by name. He gives us his peace. He points us toward the preferred future we had come to believe was lost.
Why did Jesus tell Mary not to cling to him? “(F)or I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,” (v. 17). As good as the resurrection reality was, it was about to get better. Mary now had hope and a future. All the believers had a hope and a future. Each of us has a hope and a future because of what happened on that cross, in that garden, at the ascension, on the Day of Pentecost (which we celebrate today), and upon the solemn and joyful promise of Jesus that he is coming soon.
Dear friends, let us not look at the world through the lens of grief and loss. Instead, let us look at our grief and loss through the lens of the preferred future, the ultimate happy ending, which Jesus insured.
Feel your pain. Grieve your loss. Live with hope. Smile when you remember Jesus knows your name. Live now in the certainty of the untainted goodness to come. Join Jesus in providing the solution for the sorrows and aches of our age.
I will focus on the preferred future of all things reconciled to Christ.
Our Father, deep grief knocks us off our paths. Sorrow and loss weigh us down. As you came to Mary in the garden with your presence, your compassion, your listening ears, your tender words, please come to us when we feel so lost and alone. As you revealed yourself to Mary and delighted her soul with your reality, show us your immediacy and beauty. As you pointed Mary beyond the current reality to the amazing future you insured, open our eyes to see the wonder you are shaping now which will endure forever. Amen.
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2 Timothy 2:3-6 Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (NLT)