Boy, was he excited to get contacts. Until, of course, he realized that meant I’d have to touch his eye.
Ajay is very far-sighted, and wears very thick, very heavy glasses. You can imagine how they get in an active 6-year-old boy’s way all day long. Plus, his optometrist highly recommended that we get him started on contacts ASAP, as it will make things so much easier for him in the long run.
Well, sweet Ms. Ainsley at Dr. Conan’s office showed me how to hold the contact correctly, how to make sure it wasn’t inside-out, how to put the solution stuff on, how to hold his eye open, and said, “then just…plop it on there”. That last part turned out to be quite the challenge.
No matter how strong my fingers were, Ajay’s eyelids were stronger. He wasn’t trying to be difficult. He could not help the fact that his strongest reflex as my finger came toward his eye was to cinch his eyes shut tight. Doing so would fold the contact lens over on itself and I’d end up jabbing it into his eye. I tried over and over and over. Ajay started to get a bit upset. This wasn’t going to be easy…or fun…after all.
For about half an hour, Ms. Ainsley and I worked and worked to help Ajay get comfortable with getting poked in the eye. “It’s just not normal”, she said, “and of course, everyone’s instinct is to protect their eyes!” She told us that she’s had adults sit with her for hours trying to get their contacts in, and many leave without having had success. We managed to get one lens in and out and that was that. We’d had enough!
As we drove away, I started thinking about this experience as a picture of what God does with us during painful times. Yup – I had brought Ajay to the eye doctor…on purpose…knowing what was going to go on there. I knew it was going to be tough on him; I knew it was going to take forever; I knew it would be altogether rough on the little guy. However, his optometrist is confident that he needs to move in this direction ASAP. His glasses are very, very thick and heavy. As he grows, they will only get bigger and heavier. Contacts will free him of the great potential for headaches, distraction, and general encumbrance. For the sake of the long term, this was a necessary step to take.
All of this sounds a lot like “God works all things together for the good of those who love Him”, right? Now I’m going to tell you that no matter what you’re going through, you can trust that it’s the best thing in the long term, even if the short term is terrible…right? I guess that’s true, but that’s not really where I’m going with this. (FYI – the things listed in this paragraph are not helpful things to say to those who are suffering.)
Pain is something we can’t escape in this life. Whether it comes in the form of loneliness, disappointment, loss, illness, tragedy, accident, or conflict, none of us exits this life untouched by it.
As you may know, our first son died just 2 months before he was to be born. During the months that followed, I wondered what God expected me to do with this thing He’d done in my life. After all, He brought Travis about, then took him away before I ever even got to see his fully-formed face. “It’s God’s will”, people would say. Yeah – I guess it was, because it happened. But that statement brought me no comfort. When people said that, what I heard was: “God wanted this to happen.” It made me feel pretty alone in it all.
I read a book, but I don’t know what it was. There’s an author here that needs recognition, but I don’t know his or her name. You would think I would have exalted this person and this book to a high place in my life because the truth contained in it changed my perspective. But I was such an emotional and mental wreck that receiving those words was like I imagine receiving water would be for someone dying of thirst. I’ll take that water being offered and guzzle it without even looking up to see who handed it to me.
Maybe God just wanted me to remember His words.
This author, whoever it was, discussed that God chooses to enter into our pain with us. No, He never did want us to experience death, pain, suffering, and loss. He made us to live forever with Him in the perfect world He’d prepared for us. However, sin and sin’s wages…suffering, pain, and death…are now the reality of this warped world in which we live. He could have left us there; but He sent His Son into the world to be born as a human who would suffer and die and take everything that separates us from Him with Him to the grave, that we might rise to new life with Him.
And now, we get to be His people. Do you know how God feels toward His people?
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye’.” – Zechariah 2:8
“He found him in a desert land, And in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him; He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.” – Deuteronomy 32:10
“Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” – Psalm 17:8
God’s people are as near and dear to Him as the part of our body that needs the utmost protection…the center of our eyes. When something touches the center of our eye, we can’t help but react. We certainly don’t ignore it. We fly into action to protect it…even when it’s our own mom coming at it with a contact lens.
When you hurt, God hurts. He has chosen to keep you that close. Whatever touches you, touches Him. And He is fierce in His protection of you… as fierce as you are about protecting your eyes.
Jesus demonstrates this truth here:
“…’Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see’. Jesus wept.” – John 11:32b – 35
We know that this was not the end of this story, though.
“So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb…” – John 11:38a
Why this emphasis? This is twice now that we hear about Jesus being “deeply moved”, and verse 33 even adds that He was “troubled”. Why does it not just say “So Jesus came to the tomb”?
Do you remember what He did there, after having the stone removed from the entrance? I kind of have to check back to make sure I remember correctly. It seems to me that a man who was about to raise someone from the dead would not have wept…would not have been “deeply moved within.”
Jesus did what it seems He’d come to do…He raised Lazarus from the dead. He raised him from 4 days dead. But is that all He’d really come to do? It sees that He’d also come specifically to weep with Mary and the others who were gathered to mourn their loved one.
What does this passage say to us in our pain? It says it’s ok to know your loved one is in heaven and also to weep hot tears and sigh deep sighs here on earth. It’s ok to know that we have eternity to look forward to and still ache with sadness here on earth. It’s ok to know with all your heart where your hope lies and cry hard all the same. Jesus never doubted His Father’s character for a second. His trust in Him never faltered. His assurance of glory and victory to come never wavered. And He still wept.
He weeps with you, too.
If you are troubled, deeply moved, grieving, or weeping today, know with all your heart that you are not alone. Your pain is not seen by God from afar, but experienced by Him right along with you…as if His eye had been poked.
Sometimes, God takes us to these places where, like the mom at the optometrist, He knows things will be difficult for us. He knows we’ll weep, as Jesus knew Mary would. However, He did not bring you here to punish you or to abandon you. He intends to walk you all the way through it…no matter how long the journey, no matter how rough the terrain. All the way. And you will not need to explain your pain to Him. Jesus felt it on the cross and He feels it with you today.
Consider again, or for the first time, how Jesus came down to bring you near. If you believe in Him, there is no tear that you ever shed, no room you walk into, no step you ever take, alone.
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10