By Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden
"When the righteous cry out the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Jesus was no stranger to death and sorrow. Jesus lost loved ones during his time on earth. He knows that the death of someone we love creates a hole in the heart, which is seemingly impossible to fill. Pain and suffering are evident in our day-to-day lives, and in our world.
Many Israelis and Palestinians have lost loved ones due to the conflict. There is great trauma and grief experienced on all sides, in deep and diverse ways. Many Israelis carry the trauma and history of Holocaust in their collective memory. They fear growing global antisemitism, as well as acts of violence and terror in more recent years. Many Palestinians have experienced the loss of family homes and land, and are continually struggling for self-determination. They fear the violence of a militarized society and the realities of living under occupation. All of the communities in the region have experienced loss, pain, and suffering.
It is thought that Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, passed away before his ministry began. As a young man, Jesus would have grieved the death of his earthly father. He would have walked through that grief with his mother Mary and his siblings. Jesus' own cousin, John the Baptist, was unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered by Herod Antipas. Jesus, being fully human, sought solitude and prayer to deal with the pain of this tragic loss (Matthew 14:10,13). Jesus also loved a dear friend named Lazarus, who became sick and died. Jesus was so deeply moved by the pain of this loss, that he wept openly with Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha (John 11: 33,35).
Having experienced suffering of his own, Jesus entered into the suffering of others who were also experiencing the messy emotions of grief.
Having experienced suffering of his own, Jesus entered into the suffering of others who were also experiencing the messy emotions of grief. After the death of John the Baptist, Jesus spent time in solitude. He then came to the crowd who had been following him: "He had compassion for them and cured their sick" (Matthew 14: 14). This response of compassion comes as a direct result of his grief. How are we, as his followers, called to love one another by bearing one another's burdens? We weep with one another. We cry out to God with one another. We begin the process of healing with one another. We fervently cling to the hope that, "When the righteous cry out the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:17-18).
As Christians, we desire to love people the way Jesus did. This includes both our Israeli and Palestinian neighbors. Part of loving people means grieving alongside those who have experienced devastating loss. It also means having compassion on those who are suffering, and entering into the healing process with them.
Thank you for being the great Comforter to your people. We often experience things in this world which leave us feeling alone, devastated, and angry. Thank you for desiring us to express these emotions to you, so that we might experience the healing which can only come from you. Teach us to weep with Israelis and Palestinians who have lost loved ones due to the conflict. Comfort them in their insurmountable grief.
In your holy name, Amen.
Elli Atchison and Molly Lorden write for Prayers for the Holy Land, where this article first appeared.