Luke 7:11-13 “Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out–the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’”
A death in the family is always sad, a trial to bear. This woman’s circumstances were particularly difficult.
First, there was the emotional challenge. This was not her first trip to the cemetery to bury a member of the immediate family. Her husband was already dead. Now she had lost her only son. The separation forced by death is unnatural under any circumstances. But the death of a spouse breaks our closest human bond: two who have been united as one for as long as you both shall live. The death of a child seems against nature. As parents we are supposed to care for our children, not bury them. Now this woman was all alone.
Second, there was the material or physical challenge. This took place in the First Century Middle East, not Twenty-first Century America. She was not going to take a few personal days and then return to the office, not even to the assembly line. There was no life insurance policy to pay her. Public assistance was nothing more than permission to pick up stray stalks of grain left behind by the harvesters, if she still had the strength and health to spend hours bent over in the fields.
Together, these things formed the basis for the most serious challenge: the spiritual one. Her new life was fertile soil for faith-killers like worry: “How will I ever put food on the table? How will I ever make ends meet?” Or anger: “Why did God do this to me? What did I ever do to deserve this?” Or doubt and disbelief: “This is too much, too hard, to fix, even for the Lord.”
Maybe you have heard the irreverent, I might even say blasphemous quip that pro golfer Lee Trevino once made when asked what he would do if he was ever caught in a thunderstorm on the golf course. “I would hold a one iron up in the air,” was his reply, “because even God can’t hit a one iron.” Maybe we don’t speak so blasphemously when we make our situations out to be “impossible.” But we are tempted to hold up our problems, not our one irons, and believe, “Not even God can do anything with this.”
So, then, we don’t have to be people who have recently buried a family member to find something to apply to ourselves in this lesson. Death or no death, we each face our own impossible situations. Months of unemployment may bring us to the end of our rope. The house ends up in foreclosure, the cars are repossessed, all our savings are used up and then some. The situation is impossible.
Years of family fighting have been grinding away at your sanity. “I know these are the people I should love the most. But they give me no peace. Their demands and expectations are unreasonable. Their behavior is just mean. If something doesn’t change, I am simply going to explode.” The situation is impossible.
Jesus’ words “Don’t cry” aren’t a denial of the pain. They aren’t a criticism of our tears as such. They express his desire to take our sadness away. Are we going to face it all in faith or in fear? When he reaches out is hand and tells us, “Trust me. I know what I am doing. I can help you with this,” take his hand and follow where he leads. Death itself is not a problem too big for him to handle. And his heart still goes out to us when impossible circumstances bring us to the point of tears.