Jesus wept. But not out of powerlessness.

Jesus, Nigeria, suffering

The soft spoken teenage girl had been thrust into sudden adulthood.

Her hair wrapped in a bright turquoise piece of long fabric, she looked young but protective of her newborn baby boy.

She came into our office at the hospital’s crisis pregnancy center. She had given life to a baby boy just a couple of short weeks ago.

He hadn’t been eating and had been fussy lately. She couldn’t explain exactly why, but she knew that something wasn’t right.

I’ll call her Ruth. She’d come to our office months ago for a pregnancy test. She decided to keep her baby and raise him with her boyfriend and his family, in a village area not far from town.

Ruth was brave. In America, you face judgement and criticism as a pregnant teen. Or, conversely, you can be on TV on a reality show. It’s certainly not an easy road, no matter what. But in Nigeria as a pregnant unwed teen, there are more complicated matters. Like another mouth to feed and a high infant mortality rate.

Our center offered medical help for new moms and their babies, so I escorted Ruth over to the pediatric ward. We checked in and she began the long wait to see a doctor. I knew that it would be some time before the baby would be seen, and I headed back to our office.

Lunchtime was near, and I realized that we hadn’t heard anything from Ruth. I walked over to the pediatric ward, and saw Ruth in the waiting room. Her face was drawn and vacant, almost catatonic looking.

I asked her what was wrong and she softly whispered, “He died.” My gut felt like it simultaneously fell a few feet and tied in a knot. I couldn’t believe it. I asked her what happened and she just stared off into the distance, not speaking to answer my horrible question.

I was crushed and shocked at the same time.

Tears began to flow immediately and I felt as if I was crying for this devastated young mom who remained expressionless. I asked the nurse, “Why? What happened?” She didn’t know.

Devastating, those three words. I don’t know.

My heart and mind demanded an answer. Why? What had happened to this beautiful new baby? He hadn’t been eating well, but to come to see the doctor and DIE?! NO!

The nurse sternly pulled me aside and chided me. “You need to stop crying. She doesn’t need to see that. She needs you to be strong!” I don’t remember if I said anything in reply, but in my heart I knew that it was right to cry. This great loss deserved tears to be shed.

As if walking through a bad dream, Ruth and I gathered her baby boy, still wrapped tightly in his pastel blanket, and drove him to the village for burial. Very few words were spoken on the drive. Tears said what I couldn’t say on that day.

I was honored to be with Ruth on the very dark day when she had to bury her newborn son.

Since then I have had other days with friends on dark days, and them with me. Many times I have said stupid, thoughtless things. Sometimes I said things that I hoped would make them feel better.

The reality is that sometimes nothing that we say will make it better at all.

Sometimes the best thing that we can do when our loved one is hurting is to enter in to that sad place with them, and simply grieve alongside them.

I’m thankful for friends and family that do this with me on difficult days.

Jesus knew this and did it well. The account of Lazarus’ death tells us that Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Scriptures, but so profound.

Jesus didn’t weep for Lazarus’ death, because Jesus, being fully God and fully man, knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead.

Could it be that Jesus wept out of empathy, compassion and care for his friends who were deeply grieving the loss of their loved one, Lazarus?

I think that this is a great reality for us when we grieve anything in our lives: Death, chronic illness, a prodigal child, divorce, or loss of a job. Jesus enters into our grief with us.

He weeps with us. Not because He is caught by surprise, or powerless to change it.

He enters into our pain with us.

Powerfully, lovingly, and sometimes, as with Lazarus, it may look like he doesn’t come through until it’s too late.

He is more than able. He himself was a man of sorrows and feels compassion with us.

He is Emmanuel,

God with us.

P.S. This is a true story that happened over a decade ago during our time with SIM  in Nigeria.

Although I went as a missionary to serve in Africa with all kinds of love and zeal for Jesus, it turns out that I learned much from the people we were to serve.

As with any culture, there is good and bad, but most Nigerian people we know are resilient and joyful, many of whom I call friends and now family.

We are far richer because of them.

 

 

Read the entire story of Lazarus here.

African wall photos-I just can’t get enough!

Photography

 

After blogging for about a year and a half, I just discovered this handy little tool that you see above. It’s so fun! You insert pictures and it places them in order for you. I can’t get enough and wanted to show you some pictures that we’re considering framing for the living room.

If you are new to Coffee with Christine, then I need to tell you that our family loves Africa. We especially love African people. We lived in central Nigeria for a couple of years and grew to love some great Nigerian people. We learned a lot from them and appreciate many things about Nigerian culture. More about that another time. 🙂

The pics above are all from Kenya, when Danielle and I went to the Kibera slum in Nairobi in June.

No fear of bad news, laughing at the days to come

Christianity, fear, Jesus, joy, mission, righteousness, spirituality

It’s funny how an upcoming event can fill us with conflicting emotions. We are giddy and excited about an upcoming mission to Africa, meanwhile there are bad reports on the news. Below I found joy in what the Psalmist says about bad news:

Praise the LORD.
Blessed are those who fear the LORD,
who find great delight in his commands.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.

They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;

They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor. (excerpts from Psalm 112, emphasis mine)

I have no righteousness on my own, but only because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin. Because of that, this Psalm says that I will never be shaken. I don’t have to fear bad news. Keeping my heart steady, trusting in the LORD, I will have no fear. And as the Proverb says, we can laugh at the days to come.

Here’s where the laughing part comes in for me today:

This makes me laugh out loud every time I read it, because I am guilty of complaining and saying some of these very things! It will be great to put life and annoyances in perspective, visiting with missionaries and nationals as we go in a few weeks to experience third world culture again. Do these thoughts feel disconnected to you? That’s what’s going on in my brain today. Wanting to keep my heart steady on the LORD, trusting in Him, and laughing at the days to come!