March 9, 2008

No, it’s not about comfort.

John 11:1–45

v. 37: But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

It’s the fifth Sunday in Lent, and the first anniversary of my dad’s death. The story of Lazarus’s death and resurrection (or resuscitation?) was very alive to me during March of last year. Here is an excerpt from my journal.

March 15, 2007 The heading for this section in my bible is “Jesus Comforts the Sisters.” I just crossed it out. I don’t think your deepest intention and hope for them here is that they be comforted. Comfort is so little compared to whatever it is you’re really driving at in your interactions with them. No, you are not bringing COMFORT to the sisters—COMFORT would have been showing up a week earlier and sparing them Lazarus’s death scene, embalming, burial, and their own grieving, doubting, and loss of faith in…

in what?

They probably forever lost their faith in their COMFORT being your highest priority for them. After this scene, they knew that you were willing to let them suffer—though you did eventually suffer with them.

Jesus, if you were not in my dad’s room during this last year, then you were not anywhere. Again and again, therefore, I chose to believe you were there—the silent God who brought no happy affect or felt sense of presence. Now that is a durable God. The existence of so much suffering on Earth is not a data point for atheism if God is like that: so very unmotivated to always relieve suffering, but always suffering alongside, so deeply, and seeing more deeply into suffering than we could ever imagine doing—living all the way in the forest of it when I’m only brave enough to visit the outermost trees.