The Tears of Jesus When Pain Comes: A Reflection on Christmas, Cancer, and the Hope of Christ

Tomorrow may not be known to us, but it is known to the only one who matters, and that makes all the difference.


As I get older, I see more people around me go through trials that bring them to their knees. Perhaps it’s always been the case and I wasn’t as aware of it. Or perhaps it’s just that as I get older, so do others.

Either way, lately, the importance of God’s nearness has taken on new meaning for me. In my own health struggles, and among those I love, there have been too many times when that chasm between head and heart has appeared too large. What my head knows is not aligned with the emotions that move me.

This past year, I’ve lost friends to sudden tragedy, to ongoing illness, to suicide. I’ve seen marriages fail, children make bad choices, and leaders fall.

I’ve witnessed growing anger and despair in a world that needs Jesus, and yet his followers are the very ones who stand in the way of our world coming to trust in Jesus.

If I’m honest (and I think I’m not alone), Christmas seems a little less joyful this year. Last week, I learned that my friend Lon Allison, pastor of teaching and outreach at Wheaton Bible Church and former executive director of the Billy Graham Center, which I now lead, has an aggressive form of liver cancer. The sadness gripped me with his concluding statement in his text to me: “Life can change so quickly.”

Indeed. Scripture would say it this way:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:13-14)

Millions of people are experiencing the fragility of life today: Christians like Andrew Brunson who are ...

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