And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” —Luke 7:13
As Jesus and His followers entered the town of Nain, they met a funeral procession leaving the city. A woman was about to bury her only son. And as she was a widow, this was her second significant loss of this kind.
The Lord, upon seeing the mother, said to her, “Do not weep.” Now think about that for a moment. Imagine that you are the woman and a man you do not know approaches you at your son’s funeral and tells you, essentially, to stop your crying. It seems insensitive and callous. What could possibly justify such a command?
Consider the different things the Lord might have had in mind to ease her sorrow to the point where weeping would no longer be appropriate.
Jesus might have said, “I understand that your husband died. And now your son, the only other male in the household, has died, too, leaving you in very difficult financial situation. I want you to know that we’re going to take care of you. We’re going to make sure you can stay in your home, and we’re going to bring you food and provide for your other basic needs. So do not weep.”
That would have been a compassionate and generous thing to do. It would have addressed some very real needs in her life, and no doubt she was concerned about them. But it would not have supported His charge to stop weeping. She was not weeping over her own physical needs. She wept over her son’s death.
Or Jesus might have said, “You’ve lost your family. The two people closest to you are gone, and you must be incredibly lonely. I want you to know we’re not going to abandon you. We’re going to visit you often and fill your days with friendship and companionship. So do not weep.”
That, too, would have been good and right. It would have blessed her, and she certainly would have come to appreciate it. But it would not have been cause to stop weeping. As meaningful as those relationships may have become to her, they could not have erased the heartache she felt at the death of her son.
Or Jesus might have said, “I recognize that you have poured your life into your family. You found fulfillment in serving them. Now they’re gone. I know you’re going to feel lost without them. So let’s get you into some classes. You’ll learn to contribute to the community in different ways, and while it may not replace what you had with your husband and son, it will offer new meaning in your life. So do not weep.”
That would have been helpful and supportive. It may have served her well in the coming months and years. But it was not a reason to stop weeping on that day. Her son was dead. Her sorrow was attached to death, and the only way to take away her sorrow was to reverse death. But who could do that?
Jesus could. And He did. Of all the things Jesus could have said, He chose the only one that could transform her sorrow into joy. “Young man,” He said to the dead man, “I say to you, arise.” And the man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
People in the world today have the same legitimate needs as the widow who was about to bury her only son. They have physical needs, social and emotional needs, and educational needs. It is right for us to reach out with the love of Christ to meet every one of those needs.
But every person has one need that far exceeds all others. Every person’s ultimate need is based in the reality that apart from Christ every human being is spiritually dead. And the only way to turn infinite sorrow into eternal joy is through the life that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ alone. Without that good news, anything else we might do may be kind, but it ignores the true need.
At Starfish Ministries, we will continue to meet the physical needs of the poor in Haiti. We’ll continue to provide food, shelter, and other basic needs at the orphanage in Tricotte. We’ll continue our feeding programs in our schools, emergency and disaster relief when needed, operation of the new medical clinic, and the micro-loan program to help Haitians support their families. We’ll build homes for the blind and the lame. And we’ll dig wells where people have no clean, safe drinking water.
We will also desire to meet social and emotional needs. We love our brothers and sisters in Christ in Haiti, and we want them to know that. We desire to spend time with them, to minister to the orphans and the others. We will continue to bring teams of Americans and Canadians to introduce them to Haitians and build relationships between them.
We are committed to education in Haiti. We will continue to operate schools in villages in the Tricotte area. And we will support our orphanage children when they pursue higher education.
But we know that none of it means a thing without spiritual life. If we were able to give Haitians the whole world, but they lost their souls, we would have given them nothing. So we will continue to make sharing the gospel our priority.
We want all those we encounter to know who God is and what He requires. We want them to understand that every one of us has failed to meet His righteous standard and that we are subject to His judgment. We want them to know that God, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, became a man and lived the perfect, righteous life that each of us has failed to live. Then Jesus, in His great love and mercy, died in our place, paying the penalty for our sin so that we might receive the reward for His righteousness. And we want them to know that those who put their faith in Jesus and trust Him to save them from their sin will be freed from the bondage of sin and death and inherit eternal life. Now that is a reason to stop weeping!
Thank you for all of the ways you help to make this possible. God is using your faithfulness to build his kingdom in Haiti, and we are grateful for it.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. —Philippians 1:3-5
Serving the Lord together,
Bernie, Sheryl & Philip Bovenkamp