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Monday, 27 June 2016 14:20

Essay 6: Jesus & The Lazarus Affect

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*Note: This essay is the sixth of seven authored by Jeremy for the LDS Midsingle (31-45+) community. The opinions and thoughts shared therein are his own and unless otherwise noted all names and circumstances of stories have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. 


Jeremy C Holm bobsled author speakerHaving just returned from seven glorious days on an Alaska cruise with an amazing group of midsingles, I believe my waistline suffers from post-cruise poundage. But the views were incredible, the wildlife breathtaking and the memories will last a lifetime. So thank you everyone who joined us! We are already working on our next adventure: a Western Caribbean Cruise.

The Alaska cruise gave me a lot of time to think, perhaps too much. Like many of you, my thoughts flutter between faith and the burdens I carry, hope and the fears about the future. As an LDS midsingle I have a sure foundation through our religious beliefs, but life has a way of giving us exhilarating highs mixed with heart-wrenching lows.

I had to laugh when the other day someone said, "Jeremy, you've had such an amazing life, the kind I wish I had!" I smiled, but my thoughts turned to all the trials and fires and fears and adversities that I have gone through. I think that sometimes as midsingles we look on other midsingles's lives with perhaps a touch of envy. I get it. Sometimes it is the job, the appearance, the family, the spirit, the joy, and so on. I think that is a very human trait, albeit one that Heavenly Father has asked us to resist because it usually leads to sorrow, perhaps even depression, and a certain blindness to the blessings that He has given us already.

Let's face it: adversity can be hard. Whether it is a brutal divorce, the loss of a job, a wayward child, financial stress, or just a dream we reached for but have yet to achieve, trials can pierce our hearts and like a weary boxer leave us struggling to stay on our feet.  

I feel like this year has been a year of painful growth for me. Perhaps I better understand Job and everything he went through. Luckily I have had some great friends, good family, Priesthood leaders and support to get through everything so far. But as they say, I'm not out of the woods yet so my heart and my soul feel a bit of the weight of this world. And it is that weight that I want to write about. 

As midsingles we have a tendency to put on our "best face" at events, which totally makes sense. We don't want to walk around a party or dance or fireside with the latest fashion style called "gloom and doom." However....not a single one of us goes to those events without some hidden insecurity, fear, burden or hurt. And honestly...that's ok. Those things are part of what make us human and mortal and vulnerable. Well, the vulnerable part is the hard part.

walls around our heartsIn my previous essay I talked about walls, especially the walls that we build around those same mortal frailties and struggles. But as any engineer or architect or kindergartner will tell you, if you build enough walls around yourself, eventually you'll find yourself in a prison of your own making. It is the prisons of the heart and the mind that leave us the most lonely, the most afraid and the most closed off from the love of others. Indeed, in the grand scheme of things these walls slow our progress, steal joy and even prevent us from living the full life that our Father in Heaven desires for us.  

As I talked about in my last essay, these walls need to come down. But what if we are unable to break them down ourselves? What if we need help, even divine help?

That the Lord is aware of our walls, even the secret walls around our hearts, should never be questioned. In that same last essay I quoted Isaiah 49:16 which reads, "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." We can assuredly include the walls of our pains, our fears, our insecurities and our sins in the list. And yet, the question remains: how can we invite the Savior to heal those troubled parts of our being that hold us back, that wound us frequently and that incite fear when we truly desire faith?

The story of Lazarus comes to mind. When Jesus first hears that Lazarus (whose name we should note means "God is my help" in Hebrew) is ill, the Lord waits two days before coming to Bethany where Lazarus (and his sisters Mary and Martha) lives. I cannot help but draw parallels to our own lives when trials or heartaches cause us to become "ill" in body, mind or spirit. So we pray, we "send word" to the Lord that someone He loves, even us, is ill. And even then, in His infinite wisdom, sometimes the Lord delays his "coming," or his divine deliverance. To the point that we may echo Martha's and Mary's dual laments that Jesus did not come sooner, that some Lazarus-part of our heart or mind or soul or even our faith has died. And because of that pain or sorrow we begin to build up those walls I mentioned, almost as if we desire to entomb the traumas we have undergone as Lazarus was buried in a sepulcher. 

I have seen this occur with fellow midsingles, athletes I've trained with, people in my neighborhoods, friends, coworkers, etc. We do this to survive; we numb and try to forget to move forward. Whether it be from divorce or a job loss or a breakup or a wayward child or deep sins or whatever it might be, every heart we encounter in this world has scars that can form walls around it. I think that is why Isaiah described the mortal Christ as a "man of sorrows, acquainted with grief." When Jesus looks on a heart, he sees those scars, those walls, those wounds. In fact, the scriptures tell us "the Lord seeth not as a man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart."

Jesus mary martha weptI think that is why he wept when he saw the sorrow in the hearts of Mary, Martha and Lazarus' friends. This story powerfully teaches just how sensitive the Lord is to our tears, our cries and our pains. And is it not possible, then, that those walls that we build that hold us back are structures that this carpenter from Nazareth would find divine joy in helping us remove?

Upon arriving at Lazarus' tomb, Jesus commands that the stone covering the entrance be removed which reminds me of his declaration that "he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised..." Our walls result from our hearts breaking, they leave us captive in many ways, they can also blind us in life and yes, our pains leave our spirits, minds and hearts bruised. 

But what I find so interesting is that Martha resists this command, saying that her brother had been dead for four days. In my mind, I cannot help but wonder how often (symbolically speaking) we stand in front of the tombs surrounding our wounded hearts and minds and spirits while the Savior lovingly asks us to remove the stones that stand in the way so that He may heal our hearts. "But no! No, Lord, I can't do that!" we cry. "It is too dark, too damaged, too hurt, too awful in that tomb. I can't let you in!" And so, we resist. We push against the enclosed parts of our heart to keep them closed, while the very God of Israel reminds us, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Like a small child who cries out and fears a loving parent's attempt to remove an offending sliver, we panic and seek to find ways to seal our inner tomb's all the more fiercely. 

But we cannot. How can we, mere mortals, resist the loving care of the Master Physician, of He who broke the very bands of death and overcame every sin, every hurt and every trial we may face? In these moments, as we try all the harder to hide our pains, our sins and our fears, I imagine his scared hand reaching up to rest on our shoulder. Tears fill our eyes and peace begins to fill our hearts. We, like the storms he so often calmed in his mortal life, begin to be still. Slowly, ever so slowly, we know what we would not know before: that He is there to heal, to comfort, to make whole. 

Elder Holland quote love of godAs we let our resisting strength fade, His mighty voice calls into the deepest, darkest, scariest and most painful parts of our souls with a thundering cry, "Lazarus, come forth." And those "dead" parts of our heart, those Lazarus-aspects of our faith and spirits begin to come forth again. We find confidence again, we return to Church again, we repent, we open ourselves to love again and find brightness in hope once more.

I do not know what burdens weigh on your hearts today. But I do know this: that if you will allow Him in, the Master Healer will fulfill the prophecy found in Revelations 21:4 to, "wipe every tear from (your) eyes. There will be no more death" in the walled and entombed places of your soul, but rather in its place you will find life; Life abundant, life eternal.

God bless, my friends.

Jeremy C. Holm

Author & American athlete Jeremy C. Holm has spent over half his life in the fast-paced winter sport of bobsled, including as the Head Coach for the US Adaptive Bobsled Team. He has a degree in Journalism and is pursuing a degree in Military History at the American Military University. In addition to motivational speaking and corporate appearances around the world, Jeremy is the author of three books and spends his time camping, hiking, writing and trying to make history, one day at a time.

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