Tonight, I stood in front of 300 people, about 290 of whom I had never met before, and did my best to deal with the reality that their 26-year-old brother, son, nephew, and friend had taken his own life. It was perhaps one of the most overwhelming experiences of my entire life. It’s a pretty good bet that most of them aren’t regular churchgoers, and I realized that I had the opportunity to introduce (perhaps not for the first time, but at least in a fresh way) them to my God and my friend Jesus. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you find out if your theology does speak of “Good news.”

Wednesday night, in the weekly bible study that I am a part of, we discussed the question, “What would Jesus say to these people as they are dealing with such a horrible loss if he were here?” Stacy, one of our college students, said, “I think he would say, I’m sorry.” It was that thought that reminded me of two of my favorite words in the Bible:

“Jesus Wept.”

So tonight, I shared the following (or at least something like this; I never really follow my manuscript perfectly) with these new friends… By the way, thanks to all of you who prayed for The Well and me during this time. It was clear that God was present and active amid the pain.

What do you say in a time like this? How do you respond in a time like this? Two days ago, when I received Matt’s email about Phil, my heart sank. I didn’t know Phil, but my heart broke for him, his family, and everyone who knew him.

So I stand here as a Pastor, a minister, and I realize that some of you expect me to give some answers. Some of you might expect me to have no answers. I expect myself to have some answers. What now, pastor? How do you explain this?

But one of the things his family shared with me was that Phil loved to read. He was introspective and asked questions, and his mom described him as the “ultimate seeker.” One thing that seemed clear was that for Phil, God was not something you could put in a nice little box, wrap up with a nice bow, and say, “Here is God; he makes perfect sense.” But he asked lots of questions about life, faith, and God.

Today, more than ever, I believe Phil was on to something. We are all witnesses today that you can’t put God in a nice tidy box, stick a bow, and put him on your mantle. God’s ways are indescribable. God is often confusing.

Far too often, the world just doesn’t make sense. Today, we find ourselves in one of life’s darkest times.

So, you might be asking yourself, and I am indeed asking myself, “Where is God in all of this?”

I believe that with God, there are no questions that are out of bounds. So, asking, “Where is God in all of this?” is a valid question.

Where IS God in all of this? What IS going on? Why?

I don’t think that it’s possible or even wise to try and present to you this evening a God that fits into some preconceived, nice little tidy box. I can’t shape him into a little box you can fit on your mantle. If I did that, I’m pretty sure Phil would have been one of the first to stand up and call my bluff. (and yell, well, you know what he would scream).

Amid these questions that don’t have easy answers, I believe a few things:

I believe that God has not abandoned us.

I think God is still here amid all the pain, confusion, and tragedy.

And I believe there is hope.

There is a story in the Bible in the book of John about Jesus. This story is about two women dealing with their brother’s death. Their brother’s name is Lazarus, and he becomes ill and passes away. Most obviously, like us here today, they are desperately distraught. Yet, there is nothing they can do. And so they do the only thing that makes sense: call for Jesus.

In this story, we see, what I believe is a beautiful picture of Jesus. The narrative says, “When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews that had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “˜Where have you laid him’ Jesus asked. “˜Come and See, Lord’ they replied.

Then comes two of the most beautiful words in the entire Bible:”

“Jesus Wept.”

As a kid, I always thought this verse was great because it was so short. But as I have experienced life more and more, I have come to see its richness and depth. These two words convey a profound sense of hope.

“Jesus wept.”

and the words before it.

“Jesus was deeply troubled.”

Why? Why did Jesus weep? Why was he troubled?

I think it’s clear from the passage that Jesus was weeping because he saw and understood the desperate brokenness of these two women who had just lost their beloved brother.

Jesus’ tears and pain came from the fact that the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. This is not what he, God, intended for humanity. He made us for something else. He didn’t make us for death, he made us for life. But, as I said, he understands, it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.

That’s why we revolt against death because it’s not natural. I believe the Scriptures teach us that God created man to be in a loving relationship with God, our world, ourselves, and each other. And we see, over and over again, that those relationships are broken.

The book of Romans talks about how all creation, along with us, groans and eagerly awaits the day it will be healed. Today, we feel the full effect of this longing. It is moments like these that I long for creation to be as it was meant to be.

The wonderful, good news is that that is precisely why Jesus came to die on the cross and rise again from the dead. He came to fix this world. The scriptures allude to the day when, because he conquered death on the cross, all things will be made new. All of creation will be healed. One day, there will be no more mourning, pain, or death. The world will finally be as it’s supposed to be.

So, tonight and in the days ahead, we can find hope in two things.

First, we have a God who weeps with us. We have a God who is deeply troubled by the world’s condition. He’s not a God who sits upon a throne unattached and unmoved by humanity’s flight.

But, as he did with Mary and Martha, he sits with us in our darkest hour and weeps alongside us.

The second hope we have is that he’s doing something about it. One might ask, “How do you believe in a God allowing something like this to happen?” I believe there is another way to look at this, “I am so thankful that God sees this world and has decided to do something about it.”

So tonight, instead of giving you a God who wraps this tragedy in a tidy box that makes sense and allows no questions, I invite you to sit with the God who mourns along with you. Knowing that Jesus weeps because this is not how it should be.

If you remember two words tonight, let them be “Jesus Wept.”