When Heartache Crashes In

Dan Lovaglia, Camp Pastor, Camp Paradise | March 24, 2023

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

John 11:33-36

Can you fathom losing your spouse, a child, and one of your parents all in the blink of an eye? If you’ve never read A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Gerald L. Sittser, it’s time. His firsthand experience with catastrophe, and the faith-forged lessons he learned, apply to the full spectrum of grief. I pray you and I never experience the Sittser family’s level of pain. But if we do, I know God will be with us and carry us through in similar ways when heartache crashes in.

Jesus’ arrival at Lazarus’ grave in John 11 is a tense moment in Scripture. Martha had just expressed disappointment that the Lord didn’t show up sooner. Her sister Mary didn’t even come to meet Him. Then, after a quick conversation about belief in Jesus and eternal life, the situation intensifies. Mary finally arrives, drops at Christ’s feet, and voices her frustration over her brother’s senseless death.

We tend to view human pain as pervasive but at arm’s length from divine reach. We ask, “Why God? Where are you? If only you were here and cared, this wouldn’t happen!” Yet, with Lazarus’ death, we discover that Jesus is present and feels what we’re going through inside and out. In verse 33, “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” really means the Lord was agitated, literally like a snorting horse. He was angry to the core over the reality of sickness and mortality. And in verse 35, Jesus calmly, without worry or fear, shed His tears on behalf of His beloved spiritual brother.

Christ joins us in our grief today just as He did on earth. Why? Because our story keeps moving forward even when we collide with pain. Jesus plainly demonstrated love in the moment of loss, even before raising Lazarus to life. I love Gerald Sittser’s insight on this from his own tragic experience: “This present moment, this eternal now is sacred because, however painful, it is the only time we have to be alive and to know God. The past is gone, the future is not yet here. But the present is alive to us.” 

Whatever hurt, loss, sadness, or desperation we’re facing, we can know we’re not alone because Jesus feels it all with us and for us, no matter what comes next. Let’s welcome and experience this reality when heartache crashes in.

Next Steps

  • What loss are you currently facing? Turn to God and someone you trust so you’re not facing it alone.
  • With a friend or group, read A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Gerald L. Sittser. Allow God’s truth and the author’s life lessons to guide your varied experiences with heartache and grief.