There was a knock at the door. I checked the clock. Was only 8:15. Waiting out side was an elder from our church and two somber looking young men. We greeted. The elder apologized for coming so early, but there had been a death.
In April, G had come to our house explaining that her daughter M had been having trouble with a wound, where she had lost and eye years ago. The family had taken her to the capital to a hospital. Now they knew M needed surgery, but all the money had been used up. I had been to sit with the G and M several times on my language walks. The family always welcomed me and told me to, “Come back and you will be happy.” M, probably in her early 20’s, was cheerful and kind despite her injury. We would sit and laugh as I tried to say things and they graciously helped me. We made a contribution to the expenses, and prayed for G and her daughter M.
And, now the news that M had died. How could this be? She has seemed so healthy, so full of peace, and unexpected strength. The elder from our church who brought the news was a neighbor to G and M. His wife often joined us when I sat at their home. The two young men with him were M’s brothers who had been caring for her at the hospital in Kampala. The family does not have land to burry in Bundibugyo, so they are traveling to a other family land where M will be buried far away. I will not be able to go and mourn with the family. Then the grief seeped in. Another lost, another death, the brokenness of creation. Yearning for all things to be made new. Cries to him. Questions.
I am not accustomed to this kind of grief, and I wonder at the heaviness that people carry here with constant loss of children who often die of preventable causes. Of corruption in the medical system and the lack of care. Of hunger and the imprisonment of addiction. So much darkness. Such burdens.
Then words came to my mind…
“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30)
This idea of a yoke is striking. He doesn’t say, “come and I will remove the yoke”, he welcomes us to enter into his. Not to pull alone, but to walk next to him. To let his strength bear the heaviness. Then he shows us his heart, gentle and lowly. Our God suffers. This is something that I have known since I was a five year old in Sunday school spouting that “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” But the gravity of this has only begun to sink in as I have seen and known more suffering. Suffering happens to us, God allows. We resist. But Jesus considered his equality with God, let it go, and chose to suffer and die. This allows him to be on the ground with us when we can’t get up. When pain is overwhelming. He is the gentle lifter of our heads, the collector of our tear. He carried our greatest burden of sin once and for all. And he is uniquely fitted to walk with us in each of our sufferings.
Philippians 2 tells us that after Jesus emptied himself, and in humility was obedient even to the point of death, the Father then exalted him. Glorified him! Through this suffering, one day every voice will say that Jesus is Lord. What redemption! Suffering that turns to glory is his plan. That in death, eyes can be made whole, new bodies given, voices freed to praise him forever more. This kind of glory seems a long way off, but I hope for it, and today longed for it with new freshness. And was graciously reminded that as I plod onward, he walks beside me shouldering the weight of the burden.