April 10, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Lamentations 3:40-41 (NRSV)
Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the LORD.
Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands
to God in heaven.
When we go through difficult times, we need others to be with us. There is a sacred connection that happens when we weep with those who weep, and when we allow others to weep with us in our sorrow. On the night before Jesus was crucified, he went to a secluded place to pray. But he did not go alone; he took three of his closest friends with him. His example teaches us to reach out to others when we are hurting, to allow them to be present with us in our time of need.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Lamentations in Lent.
Today is the Monday of Holy Week, a time in which we prepare for a deeper experience of the death of Jesus on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. In this week, I will continue to reflect with you on the Old Testament book of Lamentations. What we discover in this ancient document helps us to go deeper into the reality of Holy Week.
At the end of last week, I was considering the question, “How can I trust God when I’m suffering?” I suggested that God helps us to remain firm and even to grow in faith through Scripture and through our encounter with Jesus, who knows suffering firsthand. Today, I want to suggest another way God is present to us in our suffering, thus helping us to trust God even in difficult times.
We get a hint about this other way from Lamentations 3:40-41, which reads, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.” Most of Lamentations 3 contains personal, individual laments by the writer of the book. His lamentations reflect and represent those of Israel, but they are in the first person singular. Then, in verse 40, we find a reference to “us” and “our ways.” Verse 41 summons others to join the writer of Lamentations in prayer, “Let us lift up our hearts as well as our hands to God in heaven.” These verses remind us that, during our time of suffering, we need others to join with us in both pain and prayer.
When we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we enter into relationship, not only with God, but also with God’s people. Our Heavenly Father adopts us into a giant family with millions of brothers and sisters. God’s intention for us is that we would live our life in profound intimacy with some of these Christian siblings.
One of the crucial roles of the family of God is to offer comfort and support in times of suffering. According to Romans 12:15, we are to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” This happens because “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Notice that our first duty to those who suffer is not to cheer them up or sort out their theology. Rather, we’re to share in their pain and to weep when they weep. Then, in the context of such empathy, we can also find ways to bring comfort and hope.
Over the years, I have watched people deal with suffering in different ways. Some share their pain with their sisters and brothers in Christ, receiving in return the love that comes with people who weep with those who weep. Others, however, choose to keep their pain to themselves, not letting folks know what they’re going through. A good friend of mine found himself in a highly dysfunctional marriage, one in which he was the victim of emotional and physical abuse. He felt so ashamed about his situation that he didn’t tell a soul what he was going through until the marriage ended in divorce. My heart ached for this friend who had endured so much pain all by himself.
I did understand my friend, however. I tend not to want to share my suffering with others. This is especially true when my pain is mixed with shame, when I think that what I’m experiencing is, at least in part, my own fault. I’m pretty good at keeping difficult things to myself. I’m not bragging about this, mind you. My failure to share my weeping with others keeps them from doing what Scripture commands, namely, to weep with those who weep. Moreover, I cut myself off from the commiseration and comfort that comes from caring brothers and sisters in Christ. I will say however, that, over time, I’m getting better about sharing my pain with others. But every now and then I still hear from those who love me, “Why didn’t you tell about this sooner? Why were you carrying it all by yourself?”
God made us for relationship, not only with God, but also with each other. Life is richer and fuller when we do what Scripture commands, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. So, when you’re going through hard things, whether at work or at home, whether physical, financial, or relational, don’t go it alone. God did not intend for you to be faithful all by yourself. Rather, he adopted you into his family so that you might experience his love from your brothers and sisters in Christ.
We see in the life of Jesus a powerful example of sharing suffering with others. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus experienced tremendous anguish. So he went to a quiet place to pray. His band of disciples followed him most of the way, but Jesus selected his three closest friends to join him in prayer. As you probably know, they didn’t follow through very well, falling asleep as Jesus poured out his heart to his Heavenly Father. It’s true that sometimes those we count on to be with us in difficult times won’t be what we need them to be. But my point here is that Jesus did not go to Gethsemane alone. He knew that in his moment of extreme spiritual suffering he needed others with him. The next day, as Jesus was being crucified, many of his followers abandoned him, though others stayed with him to the end, especially some of the women in his retinue.
If Jesus needed people with him in Gethsemane, then surely we need people with us in our time of suffering. May God give us the grace to open our lives to those who care for us. And may God give them the grace to be present with us and even to weep with us.
Have you ever experienced the support of your Christian community when you were going through a difficult time? What happened?
Have you ever been a conduit of God’s love to someone who was suffering?
When you remember Jesus’s experience in Gethsemane, how do you respond? What do you think? What do you feel?
If you are going through a difficult time of life, be sure to share your struggle with at least one other person. If you know of someone who is suffering today, why not reach out and find a way to say: “I’m with you in this.”
Gracious God, how thankful I am that you have not left us alone. As you know so well, there’s no way I could make it on my own. This is especially true in times of suffering.
Your church is not perfect, Lord. You know that better than I do. But, in so many ways, my brothers and sisters have been there for me in difficult times. I thank you for their prayers, their hugs, their patience, their generosity, their words of comfort, their strong faith when my faith faltered.
Help me, Lord, to share my struggles and sufferings with others, even when I’m ashamed or otherwise reticent. May I give those who love me the chance to weep with those who weep.
Also, dear Lord, may I to be for others what they have been for me. Help me to be a channel of your peace and reassurance. Help me to weep with those who weep so that I might rejoice when they rejoice.
All praise be to you, Gracious God, for the privilege of being a child in your family. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Specific Behavioral Principles to Guide Moral Discernment (Romans 12:9–21)
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.