Don and his wife Lorna had been active in our church for as long as anyone could recall. Lorna headed the greeters and helped organize events for the seniors. While Don took a less active role in official ministry, he was a loved and active part of our men’s group. After church, I always enjoyed listening to his stories of growing up on a dairy farm in Minnesota and his many years as an administrator of a nursing home. Though they were some of our oldest members, Don and Lorna seemed to live a charmed life that would go on forever. Forever that is until Lorna had a fall breaking her hip and Don began using a walker to shuffle in and out of church. But people brought them dinners, prayed for them and even did the shopping. Then came Lorna’s second fall and the inevitable change of living quarters, from a lovely senior apartment to a nursing home. There, just last week, a few of us gathered in the dining room to celebrate their 63rd anniversary. Their son and daughter try to stay involved and make numerous trips to visit but being hundreds of miles away it isn’t easy. What is the church to do. When circumstances seem hopeless. When the road seems to long and dark. How are we to continue to love and serve our senior brothers and sisters? The Bible tells us that Jesus had those moments, when no words could express His heart for the situation of His friend Lazarus. People have given a thousand reasonable explanations for the theology behind these two words which form the shortest verse in the Bible. Yet, I suspect that there is a depth of compassion and love that is only understood by those who are truly broken by the sorrows of others.
Jesus wept John 11:35 KJV
Yes, of course Jesus knew what He would do. He realized that in mere moments, Lazarus would walk out of the grave. Yet He paused on the way and shared His tears with those of His friends. It reminds me of the moment thirty years ago when my mother was in hospice. I had driven out to spend some days with her in the hospital and then ridden along as they transported her to the hospice. But we lived four hours away and I had to return home to be with my wife and teenaged sons and work. That Sunday, my friend Jerry greeted me on the way out of church and asked, “How’s your mom?” I was grateful for his concern, but as I opened my mouth to try and explain, no words would come. I suddenly felt weak and sat down and simply wept for several minutes while Jerry laid his hand on my shoulder. Life is like that. There are times both in family life and in long-term-care ministry where words are far too insufficient. How precious it is that we have a Savior who comes and sits by our side and weeps with us! We learn more of His heart in those moments than anywhere else on earth!