What Did Jesus Feel, Part 1: Grief
Encountering intense emotions is a part of everyday life for many families of children (or adults) with ADHD and emotional dysregulation. Learning to identify and capture those emotions can be a life-long process. But God is faithful and provides us with examples in the life of Jesus. Over the next couple of weeks, we are going to look at examples of Jesus’ emotions and what he did with them.
As I’m writing this, we are quickly approaching the one year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic making its way to the U.S. It’s been a year filled with many kinds of loss. Hundreds of thousands have lost loved ones from the virus. Job loss is at an all time high. Financial stability, relational closeness, and pretty much any sense of normalcy are hard to come by for many people these days. Grief - the deep sadness felt at the loss of someone or something important - is a common human experience, felt by nearly everyone at some point over the last year. It may surprise you to learn that Jesus also experienced grief. A close look at John 11 shows us how similar his grief was as he witnessed the grief of his beloved friends Mary and Martha over the loss of their brother Lazarus.
Let’s set the stage by looking at verse 5. The author goes out of his way to insert a side note here, telling us that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and their brother. The word for love here is the Greek word “Agape”, which you may recognize as the deeply affectionate, unconditional love reserved for only the closest relationships. These siblings were part of Jesus’ inner circle. In verse 33, after Jesus has comforted Martha, Mary and some other Jews come to him, mourning for Lazarus. Our translations say he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” but this phrase does not do the text justice. The Greek actually says he “snorted with anger” and was “anxious and distressed” when he saw Mary and the others. Then comes the famous shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (vs. 35). This means exactly what it says - he shed tears for the loss of his friend and the grief of his loved ones who remained. And finally, before going to the tomb, Jesus again “snorts with anger” (vs. 38). My pastor described this emotional display of Jesus as “blowing snot bubbles.”
Perhaps you’ve been there, or maybe you’re there now. The grief is so raw, so painful your face is a mess of tears and snot and you can barely catch a breath for the emotional loss which seems to be crushing you. Friend, Jesus knew that pain! These verses offer us both comfort and instruction.
Jesus hurts when you hurt. Jesus was grieving so deeply, he was angry when he saw the grief of those he loved. He knows we will have grief in this life, but that doesn’t mean he likes it. In fact, if you are his follower, he loves you deeply and grieves along with you. In the same way, we can hurt for others when we see them grieving. In Romans 12, Paul gives some general instructions on how to be in relationship with one another, and in verse 15, he says simply, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” This is the example Jesus offers.
Jesus had control over his thoughts. We can see what Jesus was thinking through his interactions with his disciples and later with Martha. He knew the Father’s plan was to allow Lazarus to die so Jesus could raise him back to life. He knew this act would bring about two things the Father had planned long ago: many would believe and others would seek to kill him. He didn’t want Lazarus to die or his friends to experience the pain of loss, but he knew the ultimate, eternal good that would come from it and he reminded them of these truths. We can also gently remind ourselves and our families of the truth.
Jesus did what was right in spite of the emotional cost. Why didn’t Jesus go and heal Lazarus before he died? Everyone in the story seemed to ask this question. He could have and it would have save him and those he loved a lot of grief. But he waited out of obedience to God, even though he knew in the short term it would be more painful for everyone. Are we willing to obey God, even when it costs us greatly? Do we trust that His plans are for the good of all those who love Him, even if we can’t see it at the time?
Friends, the intense emotions experienced by many of us right now, and particularly those of us with ADHD or children with ADHD, do not mean we are not deeply loved by God. They may mean we need to work harder to seek out and obey his guidance, but the rewards are eternal!
Learning to understand our emotions and use them for God’s glory and the good of others takes practice. We have to constantly remind ourselves and our kids, it’s okay to feel how you feel, it’s what you do with those feelings that matters. When we practice this together, we build a community of emotionally intelligent warriors, ready to fight for the Lord. For more help with this, you can subscribe to download my free Take Those Thoughts Captive worksheet. If you’re already a subscriber, message me and I’ll email it to you!
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