South JEfPop quiz: What is the shortest verse in the Bible? I remember as a little girl in Sunday school class quickly shouting out, “John 11:35! Jesus wept.” I was so proud of myself. However, I completely missed the gravity of the statement; the God of the universe, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, almighty God wept.
With Halloween not that far behind us, I feel like this is a great time of the year to talk about emotions, especially with kiddos. Scary costumes, silly costumes, and strange costumes fill the stores and the streets. Right behind those costumes, we feel the weight of the emotions portrayed and evoked by what we see. I believe this to be a great time to give our students vocabulary to describe their thoughts and what they feel.
The most common emotion for young children around this time of year is fear. In Isaiah 43, Yahweh tells Isaiah to not fear, for Isaiah is His and has been redeemed by Him. “But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: 'Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life” (Isaiah 43:1-4). Yahweh validates the fear, but then reminds Isaiah of His protection and love for Isaiah. We, like Yahweh, should recognize and validate fears, but follow with a reminder of our love and protection.
The next emotion birthed in this season is playfulness. Silly costumes fill the streets on October 31. Psalm 126:2 says, “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, 'The LORD has done great things for them.' ” We can rejoice at the Lord's provision and protection, and enjoy the laughs and the games, knowing that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17).
The holidays, just around the corner, also commonly bring about sadness as we reflect on the people that we have lost. And this is exactly what I believe Jesus' friends felt when we read John 11:35, that Jesus wept. It was three days after the death of Lazarus, and Mary and Martha meet him in the road and ask why he did not come sooner. And I believe his response is also how we should respond. You see, he knew the outcome of the story; he knew Lazarus would come back to life. However, even with that knowledge, when he sees the pain of his friends, he does not accuse them of not having faith. He does not belittle their hurt. He himself not only cries with them, but he weeps. From the bottom of his stomach, he feels their pain and empathizes. This is exactly the response I believe is commanded in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep,” and 1 Corinthians 12:26, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, pall rejoice together.” If a child is hurting, our response should be to sit beside them and weep with them.
I want to encourage you to spend this time of year validating and using appropriate vocabulary to express emotions; use this time of year acknowledge the heart and its power to bring forth life (Proverbs 4:23).
In closing, I ask for prayer. Pray that we, as a church, will encourage our kiddos to grow into healthy, holy adults. Pray that we will, as adults, have the strength to model this, and that we will recognize how important our own emotional and spiritual health is to the ministry of our church. Pray that God will continue to provide adults to live healthy lives before our students.