Everybody says it at sometime – “I am thinking about you during this time” or “I will be praying for you.” I think most people mean it when they say it to somebody. I do. When people are hurting, lost, scared or devastated we want them to know we are thinking about them and praying that their life and situation gets better. We hope that they are not forever in a state of shame, or guilt, brokenness or hopelessness. We want people to want that for ourselves when the table is turned. That’s called empathy and it may be the most precious of human traits.
I am thinking today about my friends that I will preach to tomorrow near the graveside of their loved ones for a sunrise service. My prayer is that they will be encouraged by the scriptures and embraced by the closeness of God in their grieving memories. (2016 – thinking and praying about my first Easter with Newark Naz and our gathering at the Midland.)
I am thinking about my brothers and sisters who have lost parents this year – Charlie, Amanda, Tim, etc.. – and will miss being with or calling them during the Easter weekend. I am praying that they will be comforted in the conviction that ragged earthly clothes have been exchanged for pristine and perfect robes of righteousness in heaven. (2016 – Praying for friends who are remembering their daughter from 17 years without her sitting at the table for Easter brunch.)
I am thinking and praying for a special lady I love that is having emergency surgery this morning. Praying that all goes well and that she is up and at it tomorrow to embrace family and celebrate her vibrant faith. (2016 – Thinking about a wonderful lady/mom getting ready for surgery on Monday while she thinks about the death and resurrection of her Lord.)
I am thinking about my friends this year who have lost jobs, lost houses, lost marriages, lost children. I am praying that what they have lost will be found afresh and new as they trust God to fix, find and forge together the cracks of their reality. (2016- Thinking about a dear brother searching for a job and trusting in God to provide a place for him to work so he can continue serving in the church and coaching softball.)
But I am not only thinking and praying. I am laughing and giggling too. That too is empathy, but not because of grief or worry at someones trouble. Empathy that laughs and giggles as an expression and echo of the joy that others feel. That kind of empathy confronts our jealousy of others and crucifies the thought “why not me?” Empathy works in both directions. Actually, empathy allows us to stand in the middle of the good and the bad while pointing beyond either of those realities. Our empathy can be pointed “for” someone and “with” someone. Empathy is simply sharing in all of life with all of the people we are blessed to know AND some people that we will never know but can still empathize in their life events sometimes praying for them and sometimes laughing with them.
I am laughing and giggling with my friends Matt and Keri (and their kids) who will celebrate Easter this year with a new little boy. I wish I could giggle with them out loud as they take their first Easter picture as a family of 7. (2016- They are still laughing with that little boy and thanking God for his life.)
I am laughing with my friend Debi and her husband who have experienced a miracle this year with God curing his cancer. I am giggling at all of the years they have ahead of them together in marriage and ministry. (2016- Many friends this year have faced uncertain health and found strength in Christ.)
I am laughing and giggling with my friends who have found new love, new hope, new purpose, a new calling in life. I am giggling at how blessed they are and how much their lives will never be the same now that God has broke in with His lavish gifts of glory and grace. (2016- Smiling with my friends who have returned safely from a week in Africa drilling wells and for my friend who is in Ghana with his orphanage – both groups serving the Lord faithfully.)
Today we stand between grief and joy; between crucifixion and resurrection; between thoughts/prayers and laughs/giggles. Jesus has died and was buried, but he will be resurrected and will reign. We think of him in his grave clothes and pray for his disciples to be true, but we are laughing at the joy of him in his resurrection robes displaying the power of God. God is thinking/praying and laughing/giggling with us as live “in between” Good Friday and Easter Sunday. God’s empathy both “for” us and “with” us brings us together in peace and with joy.
Life is all about thinking and praying for the events and the people in our lives that are challenged with great obstacles and suffer from terrible tragedy. But life is also full of opportunity to laugh, giggle and let the joy out of our soul. When we do both – think and pray/ laugh and giggle – we are displaying our faith in perhaps its most full expression. For we are living into a God who has created with a spirit of empathy for other and for ourselves.
So make today – Holy Saturday – a day of thinking and praying, but also make it a day of laughing and giggling. God is not dead and He is not finished with the world…or with you. Make sure that this weekend is not focused on hiding eggs, buying shoes, or getting to brunch as quickly as possible. Jesus did his work on Friday afternoon. Our Father will do his work on Easter morn. Today is our time to work at our faith and think about the meaning of the cross, the tomb, the stone. Pray for God to come and to come quickly to deliver us from evil. Laugh out loud at how great our God is and giggle when you remember what His grace has done for you.
I will be thinking and praying for you. Please feel free to laugh and giggle at me.
April 4, 2015 / Holy Saturday —————————
I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God’s wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long. He has made my flesh and my skin waste away, and broken my bones; he has besieged and enveloped me with bitterness and tribulation; he has made me sit in darkness like the dead of long ago. He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; he has put heavy chains on me; though I call and cry for help, he shuts out my prayer; he has blocked my ways with hewn stones, he has made my paths crooked. He is a bear lying in wait for me, a lion in hiding; he led me off my way and tore me to pieces; he has made me desolate; he bent his bow and set me as a mark for his arrow. He shot into my vitals the arrows of his quiver; I have become the laughingstock of all my people, the object of their taunt-songs all day long. He has filled me with bitterness, he has sated me with wormwood. He has made my teeth grind on gravel, and made me cower in ashes; my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “Gone is my glory, and all that I had hoped for from the Lord.” The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3)