The Lord’s Loving Response to Grief | World Challenge

The Lord’s Loving Response to Grief

David WilkersonNovember 30, 2009

I am simply amazed at our Lord’s loving response to grief. As I read the Bible, I see that nothing stirs our God more than the soul that is overcome with grief.

Grief is defined as “deep sorrow” or “sadness caused by extreme distress.” Isaiah tells us the Lord himself is acquainted with this most wrenching emotion: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

We see a powerful example of God’s loving response to grief in Mark 5. This chapter contains Jesus’ encounter with Jairus, a synagogue ruler, and a woman with chronic bleeding.

As president of the synagogue in Capernaum, Jairus was part of a religious system that had rejected Jesus. We don’t know what Jairus personally thought about Christ, but we do know he had witnessed his healing power. It was most likely in Jairus’ synagogue that Christ healed a man’s withered hand. And Jairus was probably among the crowds when Jesus cast out evil spirits, which cried, “Thou art the Son of God” (Mark 3:11).

Jairus also must have known about Jesus’ mighty works in other cities such as Chorazin and Bethsaida. He and the other elders in Capernaum wielded their great influence to reject him, causing Jesus to say, “Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day” (Matthew 11:23).

But now, as we read Jairus’ story in Mark 5, we find that grief has come to the ruler’s house. His twelve-year-old daughter lay in bed sick “at the point of death” (Mark 5:23). Surely this made Jairus reconsider Jesus.

It was a terrible grief that brought Jairus to Christ.

If this trouble hadn’t stricken Jairus’ home, I doubt he would have come to Jesus. Think of it: Even the miracle of the restored hand hadn’t touched Jairus. Multitudes were flocking to hear Jesus’ preaching and to see him perform miracles, yet none of that drew Jairus to him. Perhaps Jairus’ own daughter knew about Christ, since Scripture says the children believed in him and praised him. I can picture this sick little girl beseeching, “Father, call for Jesus. He will heal me.”

Now Jairus’ beloved child was at the point of death. What kind of inner battle did the synagogue ruler wage before seeking Jesus for help? His social circle mocked Christ, calling him an impostor. They wanted to destroy him, to the point they plotted his death. If Jairus were to call on Jesus for help, he would be ostracized, cut off, ridiculed. It would cost him not just his position in the synagogue but his place in the religious community. He would be an outcast.

I believe this is why we’re told “much people followed” Jairus when he finally sought out Christ (Mark 5:24). The people of Capernaum wanted to see what would happen to this synagogue ruler if he brought Jesus into his home.

So, what was the Lord’s response when Jairus fell at his feet and “besought him greatly”? We’re told simply, “Jesus went with him” (Mark 5:24). Christ responded in love, even though Jairus’ faith in him was born of grief. I can imagine what the disciples were thinking: “This man Jairus didn’t want anything to do with the Lord when all was well. Now he only wants him because he’s in trouble. Jairus has come to Jesus because he has no other options.”

They were right: Grief alone had driven Jairus to Jesus. Yet the fact is we serve a Savior who responds lovingly to our every hurt, pain and grief. Think about it: What Jairus did, we all have done. In times past we have forgotten the Lord, neglected him, perhaps even rejected him. Yet the question our God is most concerned with is this: “Where are you with me right now? In your present grief, will you call on me?”

Even when God was chastising his people Israel, he was deeply touched by their hurt. Judges 10:16 tells us, “His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.” In literal terms, the Lord mourned over his people, full of deep pain. Up to that point he had told that generation, “I will not deliver you anymore.” But now, in their time of misery, he responded by entering their grief.

We find this pattern throughout the Old Testament. Time after time we read, “God repented because of their groaning.” The phrase suggests “pity, sorrow, to comfort, to ease the burden.”

Even in judgment God grieves over his children. The Psalmist makes an incredible statement: “He remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies. He made them to be pitied also of all those that carried them captives” (Psalm 106:45–46, my italics). When God sees his children’s hurting, he not only grieves over them, he even makes their enemies pity them!

Perhaps as you read this you’re burdened with some kind of heavy grief. It could be over someone dear to you who is suffering, in trouble or hurting. It could be a son or daughter who is backslidden, slowly sinking into the death of sin. It could be a loved one facing a severe, looming financial crisis. I say to all: Jesus Christ is moved by your grief.

It is wonderful to have Jesus walking with us through our pain, as he did with Jairus. Yet even when it looks a miracle is on the way, there can be delays. Though Christ was with him, a deadly delay would bring Jairus to a point of hopelessness.

Jairus’ miracle was delayed when Christ responded to a touch from someone desperate.

On the way to Jairus’ house, they were met by a woman who suffered from chronic hemorrhaging. For twelve years she had bled nonstop. She was literally dying a slow death. Luke, a physician, wrote that she “had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any” (Luke 8:43).

The Jewish law declared this woman “unclean.” To us, she represents a type of believer who is bound up in “uncleanness” or sin. In fact, some reading this message may be “bleeding” from what has been for them an incurable plague of sin. Over the years their spiritual life has slowly ebbed away in what has become a losing battle.

For twelve years this woman fought that kind of battle. She searched everywhere for a cure. She would hear of some specialist and that would raise her hopes. With every doctor she consulted she would rehearse her story anew, saying, “Here is my problem.” All of them took her money and made promises to her. But every time, she went home discouraged. At some point this woman must have thought, “It’s no use. My condition is hopeless. I’m going to keep suffering until I slowly die.”

Sadly, I see multitudes of Christians today doing just what this woman did. They run to any place that offers an answer. They explain their problem again and again, hoping this time they’ll find deliverance. All they want is for someone to stop the bleeding in their heart.

Now here was the suffering woman reaching out one more time. This time it was to touch this man Jesus, to merely make contact with the hem of his garment. And as she did, she was healed instantly!

Just then, Jesus turned around and asked, “Who touched me?” This caused “the woman [much] fearing and trembling” (Mark 5:33). Why did she tremble with fear? It was because she was ceremonially unclean. She wasn’t even permitted to worship with others, much less touch anyone. Jewish law stated, “She shall continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled” (Leviticus 12:4).

This woman was afraid to admit what she’d done. In fact, she had reason to fear for her life. Yet, “Knowing what was done in her, [she] came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth” (Mark 5:33).

At this point we see two reasons why Jesus allowed the delay of Jairus’ miracle.

The first reason was that Jesus wanted to relieve this woman of her sense of defilement. He wanted to use the moment to publicly remove her reproach.

I know many Christians who live as this woman did, under a cloud of fear because of their “uncleanness.” Perhaps this describes you. You’ve lived with a besetting sin for so long you think, “What about my awful history of sin? If Jesus heals completely, then surely there’s something wrong with me. I don’t belong in the church. It’s a holy place, and I’m not clean.”

I say if you are in a good, caring church, then you’re at the right place — because the Doctor is in! Nobody will care how wicked your past is or how long you’ve been “unclean.” Instead, they should care enough to ask only, “Do you want to be healed?”

This brings us to the second reason why Jesus delayed Jairus’ miracle: He was trying to teach Jairus a profound lesson. Picture what was going on in that scene: Jairus was desperate to bring Jesus to his daughter’s bedside. Yet this woman with the bleeding problem was rambling on and on, telling Jesus her whole story. According to Scripture, “She told all,” which took a great deal of time.

I wonder: Did Jairus say to himself, “This woman has been sick for twelve years. Couldn’t this wait just a few more hours? My daughter is at the point of dying at this very moment.” I picture him rubbing his hands, shifting nervously from foot to foot, rocking on his toes, peering ahead to see if a messenger was coming.

The fact is Jesus could have gone straight to Jairus’ home without delay. He could have healed the woman then and there, without listening to her entire story. But he delayed it all for a purpose. Here was part one of the lesson he wanted to impart: It is possible for us to be so consumed by our own sufferings and hurts, our own need of a miracle, we’re unable to rejoice in what Jesus is doing for others. In short, our pain can blind us to anyone’s need beyond our own.

That brings up part two of the lesson: When we see what Jesus does for others, it can build our faith for our own problem. I believe Christ was trying to strengthen Jairus’ faith in this scene. He might well have said to him, “Jairus, I know your desperation. I know everything about your daughter’s situation. But can’t you reach out to this poor woman? She has suffered every day for twelve years, every hour since the moment your daughter was born.”

So, has there been a delay in the answer to your prayer? Do you see others around you getting victories, being touched and healed, having miracles happen — yet you stand by helpless in your suffering? Do you get impatient or angry with God, crying, “Why not me, Lord? Where is my miracle? Why is it delayed?” If so, you are missing the point altogether. The Lord is trying to build up your faith. He wants you to move beyond grief and into confidence in him no matter what delays may come. He’s showing you he can be at work healing thousands around you and yet still have his eye on you!

Jesus responds especially when all hope seems gone.

I wonder if Jairus was able to hear Jesus’ amazing words to the bleeding woman: “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (Mark 5:34). I doubt Jairus heard any of it, because his focus now was on a messenger running toward him. Scripture says that while Jesus was still speaking miracle words to the woman, Jairus got a chilling report: “Thy daughter is dead” (5:35).

Oh, what lies Satan must have whispered in Jairus’ ear: “All this has been in vain. Jesus can do nothing for you. There is no miracle. This woman claims to be healed, but is it real?” Then came the piercing words of the messenger: “Why trouble the Master any further?” Think of what was being said to Jairus here: “It’s no use. It’s too late for God to work. Thanks, Jesus, but no thanks. You waited too long to help.”

I can hear a voice chiding Jairus through it all: “You trusted this Jesus. You fell at his feet and begged his help. But none of it worked. It’s time now to grit your teeth and go back to the synagogue. Jesus can’t help you.”

Yet Jesus heard everything that was going on. Now, as he saw the fear, despair and grief on Jairus’ face, he told him, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36). I believe Christ was saying to that crowd and to us today: “It is not enough to walk with me, call on me and fall at my feet in repentance. You must trust in me. You must believe I can bring life out of death.”

Indeed, there was one final test of faith for Jairus: He was forced to look death right in the face. This broken man’s beloved daughter was dead. Imagine the chaos and confusion in his home when he and Jesus arrived. I see Jairus’ wife collapsing into his arms, crying, “Where have you been? It’s too late. Our precious daughter is gone!”

As was the custom of that day, paid, professional mourners were weeping and wailing at the scene. Yet when Jesus saw it all, he said to the gathering, “Why make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth” (5:39). What was their reaction? “They laughed him to scorn” (5:40). Once again, they rejected Jesus’ message.

Beloved, this scene illustrates what the Lord asks of us all. We are to walk straight into our place of confusion, with death, terror and mockery staring us down, and obey this word: “Be not afraid, only believe!”

We don’t know whether Jairus’ faith held strong or if his heart was crushed with fear. We only know that all were astounded by what took place next. Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and said, “Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years” (5:41–42).

Church, we are to remind ourselves of Jesus’ words time and time again — in the face of hopelessness and death, when all possibilities are over and nothing can be humanly done: “Do not be afraid. Only believe.” You may say, “But when I’m in pain, I don’t have the strength to believe. I’m too weak, too overwhelmed.” I admit that even after fifty-eight years in ministry I still pray, “Lord, you have to put faith in me. I can’t believe on my own.” Yet I also can testify that the Holy Spirit is faithful to do that work. He has never failed to do it for me.

Finally, Paul says a time comes when “having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13). We stand on God’s Word — in spite of all pain and grief, in spite of all weakness of flesh. Jairus did, and so did the bleeding woman. They determined, “I just need to touch the hem of his garment.”

All we need for our battle is Jesus, who can bring life out of death!

David wrote in a Psalm that the Lord “breathed to pass the stars.” Think of it: The very breath of God’s mouth put every galaxy in place. David is telling us, “When you’re in pain, stop and look up. You’ll realize, ‘If God can do this, he certainly can meet my need.’” I agree. If in your pain you focus on the majesty of God, you’ll receive more than any answer a preacher could give you.

You may think God has failed you because he hasn’t answered. I tell you, your miracle word is on the way. He is at work on your deliverance right now and has been since the moment you first prayed. He has promised never to forsake you. The seas may roar, the mountains may fall into the sea, and everything that can be shaken will be. But he cannot be shaken, and neither can his purposes for his church.

I say to the homosexual, “Quit digging up your past, probing the roots of your lifestyle. Press in with faith and touch Jesus for yourself, as this woman did.” I say to all who are beset with sins: “Stop running around looking for help, saying it’s hopeless. Press in with faith and touch Jesus. Obey him, and he will heal you.” I say to all with grieving hearts: “Unburden yourself to Jesus. Then commit all into his hands. Fear not, only believe!”

When you touch Jesus — when you reach for his hem — you receive his power. When the bleeding woman touched him, we’re told “virtue had gone out of him” (Mark 5:30). The word for “virtue” here means “power.” This signifies power over all uncleanness, sin and death.

Remember, he is the God who made all things — including you and me. If that God could create a clean heart in David, a murderer and adulterer, he can do the same in you. He can turn your life around. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Dear saint, Jesus is present with you right now in your battle. You can press in and touch him as surely as the bleeding woman did. You can experience the resurrecting, healing power of Christ, just as Jairus did. He is walking beside you through it all through every delay. And he has a plan to bring you out of death and into life. Fear not — only believe!

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