Sometimes when our lives are full of worry, it is all we know. The worry and stress can engulf us. In those times, when our hearts hurt and our minds race, it even seems difficult, if not impossible to concentrate, let alone pray. If we can pray, our prayers may be just a few words, “Help, Lord.” or “Heal him God.” or “Deliver us.” Short phrases inhaled on a breath, during a time of need.
During such a time for me recently, I was reading in John 20. It is now the third day after the crucifixion. Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, and finds it empty. She runs and gets Peter and John who race to the tomb also finding it empty, except for Jesus’ grave cloths. They leave the tomb and return to where they are staying. Mary, however, remains outside the tomb crying. She looks inside the tomb again and sees the angels and talks with them, but doesn’t really “see” them either. She then turns and sees Jesus, and again doesn’t really “see” or recognize Him. Instead she seems frantic, thinking someone has moved Jesus’ body. She doesn’t yet understand that Jesus is alive again. Overcome with grief at Jesus’ death, and worry with His body seemingly moved, she isn’t able to see anything else but her own grief. What a natural place for her to be. How could she be anywhere else? Her dear friend and Teacher had died. No wonder she was overcome.
How many times have we been there? When grief and worry overwhelm us, engulf us, how can we notice anything else?
What is so moving is that Jesus knowing this, meets Mary right where she is at. He doesn’t rush her. He isn’t impatient or disappointed with her. He knows she is grieving and overwhelmed, and so He asks her question, “Why are you crying?” He invites her to name her pain and to express her grief. And then He gently asks, “Who are you looking for?”
As Jesus so often does in the gospels, He asks a question, meeting people where they are at to give them the opportunity to name, to name their pain, their need, and what they are looking for.
So in a time, when I was overcome with grief, when words were hard to pray, except for short phrases, Jesus met me. I had been so busy praying, that I didn’t recognize Jesus at first. Then He nudged me, like he did with Mary, when he called her name, except for me it was with an inner sense. When He nudged me, I looked up and around; and I was able to notice Jesus and the ways He had answered me in my grief. It filled me with hope. He opened my eyes to his presence with me and his love for me.
There are seasons and moments when it is hard to see, but be of good courage. You are seen and heard and so loved. You are not alone. Sometimes we are reminded of this truth in the eyes, and voice of another. So if you need someone to believe for you, I do, and others do too.
Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-30,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)