Yesterday, we buried my brother in law’s 84 year old mother. She lived a good and godly life. As the pastor read from several letters written to her on her 80th birthday by her children, in laws, and grandchildren, the words gave insight to those who didn’t know her well. The letters describe what kind of wife, mother, grandmother, in law, and friend she was. Although I knew “Winnie” Tohill for more than 25 years, I found myself desiring to be like her for the first time. I mean how often do you identify with an old lady? But yesterday, I did. I want to leave behind the same kind of godly legacy she built and left for her family.
Building and leaving a godly legacy is a wonderful thing. However, I also discovered a deeper truth. As we celebrated her entery into heaven and said our good-bys, I wept. I’m not sure why this caught me off guard. I find that I often cry at funerals whether or not I know the person well. For example, when I attended the funeral of a friend who lost her mother to cancer—whom I didn’t even know—I cried. I didn’t shed just a few tears. No. My tears soaked through several tissues.
Of course tears were a natural response at Winnie’s funeral. I will miss her. But I also cried because I knew the grief that my brother in law, sister, niece and nephew were experiencing. That’s the same reason I grieved for my friend at her mom’s funeral. Even though I didn’t know the deceased, I knew the daughter’s pain. I had experience that kind of loss—the loss of a loved one to death. I knew its sting; its pain and the hollow feeling it leaves behind.
Once you’ve experienced that kind of grief, you can identify with it in others. When I’m at a funeral, I feel the sorrow of those grieving and my natural reaction is to weep. Isn’t that what Jesus did at Lazarus’ funeral? He wept. Jesus was moved to tears at the sorrow that had engulfed his friends Mary and Martha. Christ cried, I believe, because he identity with their pain. “Yada” is the Greek word for know. It means there is a deep personal connection between persons where one can feel what the other feels. We have a High Priest who knows suffering on all levels. So when you and I hurt, Christ whisper’s “yada” into our ears. “I know.” He says. “I know your pain.” And He weeps with us. Christ also brings us comfort.
Through cards, hugs, meals, and the visits of others, Jesus brought me tangible comfort. Sometimes when I’d read the Word, I would find comfort. Other times it was an overwhelming sense of His presence as I prayed that blanketed me with comfort. In each instance, Christ was identifying with my pain and soothing its wound all at the same time. From my pain came a ministry of comfort to others.
A ministry of comfort is one of many beauties God brought out of my ugly situation. Through my loss, I’ve learned that whatever makes you and me cry is what we are called to heal. Let me ask you. “What makes you cry?” Is it starving children in a third world somewhere? Is it abuse; the brokenness that divorce leaves behind, moral corruption, those who are lost or enslaved to addiction? What makes you cry? Whatever it is God wants to use you to bring healing through a ministry of comfort. Don’t waste those tears. Ask God how you can help. You might be the answer to someone’s cry.