Standing at the Tomb: A Lesson in Grieving & Joy

I’ve spent the past several days camped out with Jesus and Lazarus, Martha and Mary…{John 11: 1-44}


Much as Mary & Martha were, I am grieving a loss.  Mine is not a death of a physical person but process of dying to self and the burial of my idols.   I know Jesus is here with me in the grieving process just as He was with them.  One of the decisions I’m having to make is will I grieve as Martha did or will I choose to be more like Mary?


Jesus loved Lazarus deeply, yet when He received the news of his friend’s death He waited rather than go to the grave promptly.  It is a mystery to anyone who seeks immediate comfort in times of trouble.  How could Jesus not care enough to drop everything and go?  If we take a closer look we see that it was because of His abiding love, not in spite of it, that Jesus tarried.  His love beckons us to embrace the losses in our lives…whatever they may be…and to fully engage in the grieving process, a process of cleansing that brings freedom.  “He that soweth in tears shall reap in joy” {Psm 126:5} To try to escape the tears is to miss the joy.   “In His favor is Life: weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning”.  {Psm 30:5}


As if viewing a video in my mind, I watched Jesus approach the town of Bethany where the scene takes place.  Martha hears that He is near and she goes running out to meet Him.  And the first thing she does is get in His face…”Where were you, Jesus?”  I can almost hear the anger in her demanding tone… “If you had been here he wouldn’t have died and now it’s been 4 days! Don’t you care?”  Even so, Jesus didn’t return her anger.  Instead He spoke words of authority… “I am the Resurrection and the Life…he who believes though he dies, yet shall he live.” and then he asked her a question, “Do you believe?”  Martha says she believes and yet later in the story at the tomb when Jesus instructs that the stone be moved, we witness Martha’s doubting again. Um Lord, it’s been 4 days, the stench is going to be horrific…is this really a good idea? Again Jesus meets her questioning with authority & repeats himself… “Do you remember what I said about having faith…?”  The implication for Martha…and you & I…is do you believe or don’t you? 


Now rewind the film to the place where Mary approaches Jesus and you’ll get a totally different picture.  Mary didn’t even go to Jesus until her sister told her “he’s asking for you.”  She waited in the house in silence until she was called.  As soon as she caught sight of Jesus she fell at his feet.  And though she asked the identical question, hers was a broken whisper… “Where were you?”  Can you envision Christ reaching down to Mary, lifting her up, wiping her tears?  He doesn’t question Mary’s faith.  He doesn’t need to remind Mary of who He is…she knows already.  Quietly He enters into her pain.  “Where is Lazarus?” he asks, and as they walk along the way He holds her up.  They approach the tomb and Jesus begins to cry with Mary.  There is a deep spiritual intimacy between Jesus and Mary.  She trusts Him even in her pain and He deals gently with her.  Rather than re-teach the lessons from the past, He simply and quietly weeps with her, sharing her grief, engaging the sorrow.  He knew that a resurrection was about to happen yet still he paused to meet the need of the moment.  Rather than rush Mary’s grief, He embraced it with her.  Jesus afforded a time to be quiet and mourn. Then he got LOUD and deliberate as He denounced the enemy—Death.  He commanded the dead to come forth and a resurrection took place.


In my own story there is a resurrection to come.  Jesus says so & I believe it. It’s been written into my script long before I existed.  But for now I am standing in front of the tomb.  It is a place of grieving and letting go.  There are things I buried at the back of the tomb that stink and it will not be pleasant to roll back the stone exposing the corpse of desires, thoughts & behaviors.  But Christ assures me that those things are not my life…HE IS MY LIFE.  I no longer need the burial clothes.  What’s fascinating to me is that Jesus doesn’t go to Lazarus and begin to pull away the burial clothes.  Instead He commands the sisters to help Lazarus remove them.  Jesus was there to bring LIFE but it was up to Lazarus to relinquish the clothing of death.  Even so, Christ did not expect him to do it on his own.  Jesus instructed the family to come to the aid of Lazarus.  They supported him in the cleansing process.  They helped him as he shed the smelly garments.  And they ultimately rejoiced with him that he was more alive than he had ever been.


Jesus wants no less for me.  He has come to give me Life.  He stands with me at the tomb of my idols…those things I once looked to for security, pleasure, life.  He is willing to bear the stench with me in order to clean out those things once & for all.  And he gives me the family of faith to support me in the journey away from the grave and toward Life.



Jesus said “ I am the resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.  And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.  Do You Believe?” John 11:25-26


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DiAnna Steele

Child of God, Follower of Jesus, Sister in Christ, Friend to the lost...

2 thoughts on “Standing at the Tomb: A Lesson in Grieving & Joy”

  1. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing such an important revelation. There is so much that Jesus coded into His Life, and only through studies like this one do we start to see and hear and understand the “all things” He promised would be revealed through the Holy Spirit. As I read, I heard His voice. You are surely chosen Di.

  2. Di, what an incredible blessing to have been able to watch as over time you have been transformed from a Martha to a Mary. You truly demonstrate spiritual intimacy between you & Jesus. Your transparency continues to inspire me as you share the real you. Keep writing, my dear. It’s powerful.

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