Misery is Optional

Some years ago I preached a sermon entitled “Pain is Inevitable, but Misery is Optional.” I thought about that yesterday as I preached about the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.

It is an odd story to read at the end of Lent. We are trying to focus on the passion of Christ, and here is a story or resurrection two weeks early. The truth is, although Lazarus was given more time on earth, he, like everyone did eventually die. Physical death is a universal price we all must pay for this great adventure we call life.

In the story, we find the shortest verse in the Bible. It is just two words: “Jesus wept.” The great truth of this passage is that Jesus was not weeping for himself and his own misery or impending arrest, torture, and death. He wasn’t even weeping for Lazarus who Jesus already had said would live again. Apparently, Jesus wept for the suffering of Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, and for us. Jesus had great empathy for the grief we suffer when we are physically separated from those we love.

Even though Jesus came to convince us of the ultimate truth that life never really ends, he still was touched by how we suffer with the transition from one form of life to another. Jesus wept … but he didn’t stand there crying. His heart, hurt but he refused to let his pain make him miserable.

I heard a preacher say once about a woman, “She has enjoyed bad health for many years.” It is a strange phrase, but we’ve all known those people. In fact, we all have BEEN those people. Sickness, troubles, and challenges all can make us feel more alive. We don’t like the symptoms that come, but it is better than the numbness of simply going through endless days of sameness.

One of the lessons of Lent needs to be for us all to feel the pain, the conflict, the struggle, the betrayal, the fear, the grief, the __________, and then to find the reserves to move on. The Bible says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” I think the problem sometimes is that we don’t have the courage to let go of the life we found in our pain and then awaken to joy.

by Michael Piazza
Center for Progressive Renewal

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