There’s a hole in the world tonight.
There’s a cloud of fear and sorrow.
The Eagles’ song expresses the problem well enough, even though it misses the boat when it comes to the solution. This is the song that ran through my head the night my husband died. There was a deep hole where he had been, and that hole stands forever unfilled, at least in this life.
He left a young son to grow through his teen years without a father, and—believe me—every boy needs a dad. My youngest son will always have an empty spot, a hole, where he should have a dad. And he will always, in this life, feel that hole. I know that because my husband had a hole, too, left by his own father, who died when he was a child. He longed, always, for something that he did not have.
But the hole in the world is bigger than the empty spot left when a son loses his dad, although there’s nothing quite like the death of someone you need and love to reveal the all-encompassing hole, the big hole made up of all the smaller holes and more. Everything is quite wrong and nothing is quite right.
Life is a struggle, or to quote Westley, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” And we want to buy what they’re selling. Who wouldn’t? We want to believe our story starts out with “once upon a time” and ends with “they lived happily ever after.”
But deep down, we know that none of this world’s true stories are fairy tales. We know that even as we struggle to gain, we are never quite maintaining. As we struggle for stability, things change and not for the better. We build up buffers against the unexpected, but our buffers are never as solidly built as we imagine, and we are always living one disaster away from losing everything.
Yes, that the unexpected will happen is quite predictable. Storms come, and fires and earthquakes and floods and debilitating diseases. People are prone to mistakes that result in all kinds of hurt to others, never mind the purposeful cruelty. Worst of all, death is inevitable, for ourselves and for every single person we love. So we live our lives before our last appointment in anticipation of future losses and in sorrow over past ones.
Have you thought about why Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died? He planned to raise him. “I go.” he said, “to awaken him.” And yet we’re told he was “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” when he saw Mary and the others weeping. He was weeping, I suppose, in sympathy for them, yet he knew their bereavement would be short-lived. In just moments, they would be rejoicing like never before. Do you think he wept because he knew that however brief their sorrow was this time round, and however overjoyed they would be at the resurrection of their brother and friend, Lazarus would die again and their sorrow would return, inescapably, over and over throughout their lives? Did he weep because of the hole in the world?
Like Lazarus and his friends, and Jesus, too, we do have hope for the future. The one who raised Lazarus has already defeated death, and one day we will have our own resurrection. One day creation will have it’s redemption and everything wrong will be made right. No more hole, not because the world is patched up, but because it is made new.
But in the meantime, life is pain. We struggle; we lose. We sorrow, not like those who have no hope, but we still sorrow. And we don’t have to tiptoe around the hole in the world, as if owning up to how wrong things are would be admitting defeat. Jesus, the one who defeated death, wept in the face of it. We can’t do better than Jesus.