Channeling Sorrow

“Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have [Herodias]’, his brother Philip’s wife. And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people… But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter…’ He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter… And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.

“When Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick... Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the loaves and fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied… And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Matthew 14:3-8,10-14,19-20a,23

His cousin had been senselessly, crudely killed, and Jesus withdrew to grieve. But the curious, needy crowds kept coming, and sorrow had left its sweet mark on our Savior. Instead of stewing at the injustice of John’s death, or retaliating in anger, He transformed His pain into compassion for others. He loved, He healed, He engaged, blessed, and fed. The same sin sickness that drove Herod to order John’s beheading had infected the crowds, lost sheep in need of a Shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

What do we do with our disillusionment, anguish, pain? Do we allow it to take on a life of its own and consume our attention and emotions? Do we turn inward to nurse bitterness and wounds, and plot revenge?

What would change if we withdrew from our flesh reactions to learn from Jesus? How might we see differently people who hurt us? Might we recognize in our so-called enemies some of ourselves? Might God awaken compassion at the plight of all image bearers who have fallen short of His glory, and plant ideas of how to reach out, connect, and offer life? (Genesis 1:27; Romans 3:23)

It takes quiet contemplation to recognize in ourselves what we criticize and loathe in others. Another’s cruelty mirrors our desire for justice at any cost. Another’s saunter of power ignites our own swagger of ‘right.’ Another’s deceit and cruelty inflames malice and retribution. Ah, fallen are we all. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Would we come to the suffering Savior for healing? For sustenance to withstand the struggle? For blessing when weighted with effects of the curse? He is our hope of right thinking and righteous response. He is sufficient for our weaknesses. His love preserves us through every obstacle and force against us. (Psalm 22:6-18; Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Father, in every sadness, draw me to Yourself to learn how to move forward. Then may I do so with understanding, compassion, and Your irrefutable love.

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