I had the privilege these last few days to spend some time with my nephew, Joshua. The little boy who used to laugh incessantly and wake up singing will be eight years old this summer. The years gone by have not erased the joy that marked his toddler years, nor diminished his gentleness. Joshua is a little gentleman: considerate of others' feelings, generous, politely-mannered.
One day he met me from school and enthusiastically showed me the prize he received. A small rabbit decoration, a much-anticipated prize that marked his reading one hundred books this school year, clung tightly in his hand. He was unbridled in his joy, his glance often resting on his prize. A while later, unaware of the whereabouts of the rabbit, I flung the blanket from the couch and in the process decapitated Rabbit. Joshua was devastated, and so was I. Through tears he whispered "it's okay, auntie", but I knew his disappointment would take a little longer to dissipate.
Driving home that day with a heavy heart, I cried. "That is silly", someone might say, "it's such a small thing." Sure, it may be a dollar store acquisition, but to Joshua it represented - even if he didn't quite verbalize that - the hard work he put in, the diligence of agonizing over new words and hard-to-grasp phrases. It was the fulfilment of a long-awaited reward which he barely had time to own, to savour the victory it represented.
That night, on my drive home, I cried for all the disappointments he would later experience. For the friends who would one day be indifferent. For the words which would cause him to loose sleep. For the sadness he would experience because of unmet expectations, and hurtful interactions, and for unanswerable question marks.
That night, I cried for the kids whose mothers didn't return from the hospital. For the husbands whose wives never held their newborn babies. And for the babies who never heard the soothing tones of their mothers' voice. I thought about the kids who lay graveless at the hands of soulless men. 'What does God think of all of this?', I wondered.
And then I saw Him standing before Lazarus' tomb, weeping. Jesus wept... John never tells us why. Maybe He cried the pain which sin deposits on the world in layers of heartbreak, and anguish, and despair. Jesus saw His friends drowned in grief - grief so deep that only wordless tears could comfort. He felt what they felt, and He didn't shy away from drinking the cup of sorrow. A short while later, He would drink all of it - the ocean of suffering drowning humanity - and in His death atone for its sin.
That night, I tasted anew the joy that only He can bring amidst the tears. As I pondered the suffering of the world - the small measure I knew of - I was feeling His heart. He ached for it long before I ever did - and He wept. He is not distant or disconnected from the hurting, but He walks among them. How else could we visit Him when He is sick, or feed Him when hungry, or go to Him when in prison?
I don't have all my questions answered on this side of heaven, and that's okay. What I know for sure is that, "even though I walk through the darkest valley, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." He loves me, He quiets my heart, He carries me when I cannot walk on my own.
On this side of the resurrection, that is very good news.
" Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)