What Happens When We Hurt
Lessons from Jesus.
I became a pastor in the late 70’s—the days of former President Jimmy Carter. It was not very long after moving to New Jersey when I was asked to officiate a funeral for a young man who committed suicide. I remember how challenging and unprepared I felt for the occasion. I had never performed a funeral and did not know how to care for a family who suffered from such horrific circumstances.
The post-resurrection account of Jesus' appearance with the two men on the way to Emmaus provides a window into the means that God employs when we hurt (Luke 24). The disciples and many of those who followed Jesus and benefited from his ministry were distressed at his death. Lives were devastated. All hope had vanished as they mourned his death. There was no joy or redemptive expectations. It was a difficult time for many who had become dependent upon Jesus’ ministry.
The gospel writer, Luke, places the spotlight upon two men who were taking a seven-mile walk to a village by the name of Emmaus. During that three-to-four-hour journey, they shared with each other their thoughts about all that had taken place the past few days. It was under these circumstances that Jesus appeared to them. Here is what we learn regarding his means of ministering to those who hurt.
First, he does not instruct them to cease their state of sorrow or exhort them to be more hopeful. He is not interested in them knowing his identity. He does ask them to make a confession regarding that which they believe (Luke 24:17). It has been noted that throughout the four gospels, Jesus asked over 300 questions. He could just have made declarations or given instructions. His questions are designed to help his audience think about their circumstances and state of mind. It is his way of helping them own their circumstances. In addition, it is his way of coming alongside them and reminding them that he cares about them and their sorrows. Helping express thoughts and feelings is certainly a means of helping those suffering.
Secondly, he wants them to ground their beliefs, not in their misunderstanding, but in truth. Jesus draws their attention to the Old Testament scriptures,
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25-27)
We are not given the exact passages, but Luke does tell us the major portions of the Old Testament from which Jesus quoted. Jesus does not show up immediately. He allows the two men to process their thoughts and feelings. Yet, in time he wants them to experience the truth and its impact that is expressed in scripture.
Years later, the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy, reminds the young pastor of the significance of scripture which was taught to him from infancy (2 Timothy 3:16). By no means am I advocating sitting down with those who are hurting quickly rattling off passages of the Old or New Testament. We must mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). We must be willing to quietly sit, for perhaps, a long season before drawing their attention to the word. However, eventually, when they are ready, we appropriately direct their attention to the healing, hopeful and comforting word of God. The two men on the road needed that truth and so do we.
Personally, the psalms minister to my soul when I find that I am anxious or worried. When I am feeling down or discouraged, I am drawn to passages such as Psalm 139 or 46 that speak about the presence of God in times of trouble and sorrow.
Regardless of our circumstances as a Christian, we need to be oriented with the truth that is given to us by our Lord in his word. It does take time and effort to be both interested to hear from our Lord and apply his truth to our thinking and life. In some cases, when we find ourselves not interested or too busy, we do well to pray the Psalms seeking his presence and help. Perhaps the following passage may be appropriate for you?
“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I am awake, I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18)
Chuck Garriott is the founder and Executive Director of Ministry to State.