Because of what I do, I have spent a fair amount of time in hospitals and at funeral homes and sitting with people in their sorrow. Sometimes, I’ve overheard good hearted, well meaning people say things to people facing loss that make cringe. I’m guessing that the people grieving are wondering why someone would say that? Its things, “It’s all part of God’s plan. God just needed another angel in heaven.” Or how is this one, “God doesn’t give you anything you anything that you can’t handle.” Perhaps the worst one, “If only you’d prayed harder, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” Somehow all those sentiments make it seem as though God planned our suffering and made these things happen. As though God is up in the heavenly realm doling out suffering to see if or how we mortals handle it. In an article called, “What to Say (and not say to say) to someone who is grieving, David Pogue shares, “In support groups for parents, ‘God never gives you more than you can handle’ is universally known as one of the cruelest comments for devastated parents to receive,” added Wendy Prentiss, whose 6-year-old nephew was diagnosed with a deadly cancer. “It suggests that the parents are weak for being crushed. It comes across as judgmental and tone deaf. It also suggests, wrote Kathryn Janus, “that God had a hand in the death, and that’s just awful. And, P.S., sometimes the death is more than the bereaved can handle.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/smarter-living/what-to-say-and-what-not-to-say-to-someone-whos-grieving.html It is hard to imagine Jesus saying this to someone in their time of need.
Jairus comes to Jesus, falls at his feet and begs him, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” Can you imagine Jesus saying? “It’s all part of God’s plan.” The woman in our gospel, the hemorrhaging woman, who’d spent everything she had on getting better, who can’t go to worship or be around people or have anyone touch her because the purity laws of the day say that she is unclean. For twelve long years she suffered. Some so called miracle healers came her way, took her money and she is only worse. Would Jesus say to her, “Maybe you should pray harder, God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
And yet we find woven through scripture the notion that God knows us and knows all our days – the very hairs on our heads are counted. I believe that plan that God has for us, is not about what we eat for breakfast or the minute by minute details of our days. God’s plan for us is wholeness in mind, body and spirit. And when things go wrong, which they do all too frequently, God’s promise is to be with us in our pain and suffering. To be with us until that wholeness is restored. It says in our Psalm, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8) Turn to Revelation 21, “See the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear for their eyes.” (Revelation 21:3 – 4a)
When Jairus throws himself at Jesus’ feet and pours out his about his daughter, Jesus doesn’t say anything to make it better. He simply goes with Jairus. Following him to his home. Staying with him in this difficult time. As Jesus goes with Jairus, the crowds follow him. In the crowd is a woman whose suffering is beyond our imagining. The bleeding is just one part of her pain. The other is the social isolation and the loneliness of her condition. She shouldn’t be in the crowd that day. She knows she shouldn’t touch Jesus, but she thinks, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28). In that moment the bleeding stops.
And so does Jesus. He feels the change. He says, “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30) And the disciples can’t imagine what Jesus is talking about because they are in the middle of a crowd – of course someone is touching you! Jesus ignores them, keeps looking around the crowd to see who touched him. I can’t begin to imagine the courage it took for the woman come forward and tell Jesus her story. Jesus pulled her out of the shadows and placed her back into the heart of the community saying, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34)
While Jesus is talking to the woman, some tells Jairus his daughter has died and there was no point in troubling Jesus further. Jesus turns to Jairus and says, “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus, Jairus and the disciples go to Jairus’s house. Jesus enters the room and says to the little girl, “Talitha cum,” which means “little girl, get up!” And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about.” (Mark 5:41 – 42)
Jesus actions are not about being with people in their time of need. When Jairus comes to Jesus and tells him about his sick daughter – Jesus goes with him, offers him hope, and restores his daughter to him. When a woman who’d suffered for 12 long years, reaches out and touches him, he restores her to community. And he does this over and over again. Jesus way of love and compassion shows us God’s love at work.
This morning’s news is awful. In one night, two mass shootings. One in El Paso, Texas with 20 people dead and more than 2 dozen injured and another in Dayton, Ohio with 9 killed and 16 injured. These are tragedies for the mothers, fathers, sisters, aunts, uncles, friends and communities. This is not some part of God’s plan. There is no amount of prayer that could stop this. There are no more angels needed in heaven.
It is hard to understand tragedy and suffering and pain. It comes in so many forms and is different for each of us. It doesn’t matter if caused by sickness, or relationship break down, or depression, or loss or loneliness or grief or abuse, or addiction or unexpected tragic accident, we all carry these burdens differently. What I do know that God does not cause it and faith doesn’t give us a “get of out pain free” card. Faith reminds us that when the pain comes, we are not alone. Jesus stays with us in our sorrow. God counts our tears, God wipes away our tears and walks with us in our time of need. Somehow with time, with help of friends, and God’s sustaining love we too can say with the Psalmist, “For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping, So now I can walk in your presence O God, in your life-giving light.” (Psalm 56:13)Amen.