John 11

There’s no shame in crying.

Have you ever been called a cry baby? It does not feel good. Having to suck it up and power through without giving yourself a chance to cry…that does not feel good, either.

Thankfully, many people these days recognize that showing emotion is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it is often a sign of strength.

You may have heard of the famously short verse in the Bible–John 11:35. “Jesus wept.” That’s pretty much the entire text. But take a moment with us to look at the story surrounding it.

A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha.

John 11:1 NLT

Lazarus and his sisters were close friends of Jesus, so the sisters sent word to see if he could heal their brother.

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.

John 11:4-6 NLT

Jesus’ disciples were not too keen to go back to Bethany, because they feared the religious leaders there would try to stone them to death. They had good reason to fear; those religious leaders had tried stoning them just days earlier.

But Jesus was not afraid. He told his disciples they were going, and he even told them why. 

So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”

John 11:14-16 NLT

As you can see, the disciples decided to follow Jesus back to Bethany even if it cost them their lives. Are you seeing much weakness in the story thus far?

When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept.

John 11:32-35 NLT

Wait… Jesus was angry? 

Yes, he was. And he stayed angry. (See verse 38.) Even after taking a moment to cry with Mary. When he cried, he was sad-mad.

We do not know exactly why Jesus shed those tears. Whether he was sharing Mary’s and Martha’s pain, or lamenting the tragedy of death in a more general sense is impossible to discern.

The same goes for his anger. We don’t know exactly toward what it was directed.

But what we see is a picture of a powerful man, courageously leading his followers back into a hostile environment. And as he does, he freely shows his emotions…and his humanity.

So the next time you feel you should hide your emotions to somehow appear stronger, recall this image of a powerful, angry, weeping Jesus. Then consider what real strength looks like.

And in case you have not heard the end of the story….

Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

John 11:43-44 NLT

Questions for Group Discussion

  • How does it make you feel to think that Jesus shed tears like he did? Or that he was angry?
  • Do you know anyone who finds it shameful to show emotion? Why do you think they feel this way?
  • Can you go too far with showing your emotions? How far is too far? Is it ever a good time to hide your emotions?
  • How can you reconcile the concept of self-control with the idea that it is okay to show your emotions? Are these at odds with each other?

Application: Emotional Permission Slip

There are no good or bad emotions, but there definitely are good or bad actions.

Many people find it difficult to allow themselves to experience the full range of emotions. Sometimes it is because of their cultures at home, school, or otherwise. It is not always safe to freely express how you feel, and moreover, not always wise.

For example, yelling or lashing out at people when you are angry are not behaviors you want to cultivate. Staying angry is not a good thing, either.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…

Ephesians 4:26a NIV

It can be quite the process to learn when, how, and with whom to share your emotions. But the process starts with you giving yourself permission to feel those emotions, and progresses when you become able to identify what you are feeling and deal with them accordingly.

So let’s begin the process by writing yourself a permission slip… You will need to add a list of additional emotions (this could be on the back of the page if you print the slip out, or on a separate sheet of paper), and most importantly…don’t forget to sign it!

Permission Slip

I, ______________________, grant myself permission to feel the emotions listed below (and others which may or may not be listed separately.) 

– Happiness
– Sadness
– Joy
– Grief
– Exhilaration
– Disappointment
– Wonder
– Anger

I understand that 1) feeling emotions, 2) showing emotions, and 3) acting on emotions are entirely different things, and therefore grant myself unrestricted permission to do the first (feel the emotions), while exercising appropriate self-control and/or restraint with the second and third (showing and acting on emotions).

While I understand the inadvisability of repressing my emotions, I also acknowledge that certain emotions, such as anger or disappointment, are better to be experienced quickly and not nurtured or dwelled upon.

I also acknowledge that I have the ability, to some extent, to control my emotions by naming them, discussing them with trusted friends or advisers, and releasing them to God through prayer.

Signed ___________________________________

Date & Time ___________________________________