It’s back to school time and one of the things I always dreaded was the day the teacher said, "I want you to write an
essay." After the groans had subsided, the next words were, "I want an essay about what you did during your summer
What I did on vacation? I didn’t keep any notes; I just had fun. This is going to be a short one. "I had fun – the
end!" I knew that would earn me a trip to the Principals Office, so I hunkered down and tried to think of something
to write – anything that would make the pain go away and the teacher happy. Usually what I finally scribbled down did
For those of you who have also struggled to write that infamous essay, I am tempted to say I know how you feel. I too
have been held captive by "writer’s block"; I too have suffered grammatical confusion with respect to tenses, misplaced
modifiers and run-on-sentences; and I too have been kept after school because it either wasn’t done, or up to standard.
But the truth be told, I know how I felt; you may have felt something completely different.
When we hear of someone struggling with a life issue, we often will go to that person and say something like, "I know
how you feel." It’s meant to create a bond of understanding, but sometimes it does just the opposite. The school
essay example is a simple one and is not usually something connected with great personal trauma. There are many other
life situations that are much more significant.
Much of my summer vacation was spent with my family, when Mom was suddenly hospitalised and began to deteriorate rapidly.
Even in that situation, I learned some amazing things about love as I watched my Dad, knowing his bride of 70 years was
about to die, continue to pour out his love to her and comfort her in every way he could.
When my Mom died, I thought I would be reduced to uncontrollable tears, but I felt nothing but numbness – no tears, no
emotions, just numb. Later that day, Pastor Bob, the minister from Mom and Dad’s church – and the man who married
Teresa and I and also baptised our children – came to visit. I spoke to him about my seeming lack of emotional response.
He wisely said, "You are responding in your own way – perhaps the way you’ve learned to deal with these things as a
soldier. The outward display of emotions will come when you least expect it and probably at the most inopportune time."
He understood what I was going through but he didn’t try to tell me how I felt.
When you’re going through a difficult time, nothing means more than having someone come alongside you who understands
what you’re going through; who listens without commentary; who simply allows you to lean on them.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus were friends of Jesus whose stories feature prominently in the New Testament. In Luke 10 we
read that as Martha busied herself in her “hostess” role, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear what he had to say. When
Martha complained, Jesus understood her frustration but rather than direct Mary to help, he responded saying, "Martha,
Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.
Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10: 41-42 (NIV)
Later, Jesus receives news that Lazarus is gravely ill and likely dying. When he arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has
already been laid in his tomb. "Jesus wept." This short and simple passage is the blessed assurance that Jesus truly
does understand how we feel. He doesn’t just understand the emotions that surround the death of a loved one, but he
also understands the full spectrum of the human experience:
• Jesus knew temptation: "He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan" (Mark 1:13).
• Jesus knew poverty: "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head"
• Jesus knew frustration: "He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.… 'Get these
out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!'" (John 2:15-16).
• Jesus knew weariness: "Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well" (John 4:6).
• Jesus knew disappointment: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…how often I have longed to gather your children together,
as a hen gathers her chicks,…but you were not willing" (Luke 13:34).
• Jesus knew rejection: "From this time many of his dis ciples turned back and no longer followed him" (John 6:66).
• Jesus knew sorrow: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Matthew 26:38).
• Jesus knew ridicule: "Again and again they struck him…and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid
[mocking] homage to him" (Mark 15:19).
• Jesus knew loneliness: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46).
During one of my opportunities to speak to you from the pulpit this summer, I shared a story with the children about
Jesus being the anchor that holds in spite of the storm. Brothers and Sisters, we have a friend in Jesus who has been
through everything we are currently facing, or will ever encounter – a friend who has weathered every storm and yet
remained without sin.
When you are hurting, turn your eyes upon Jesus. He wants to wrap his arms around you and comfort your soul. He wants
to strengthen you against the evils of this world. He wants to inspire you to love others as you know he loves you.
He is helping me deal with the loss of my Mom and I know he can help you – whatever your need.
"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted
in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that
we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)
What did I do on my summer vacation, a lot of learning! By the way, Pastor Bob was right; bursting into tears while
returning home via Highway 407 is definitely an inopportune time.
PS – Thank you all for your prayers, your hugs, your cards, emails and phone calls. The love and compassion that each one of you showed means so much. God Bless!