There’s an episode of Gilmore Girls where Dean breaks up with Rory after telling her he loves her because she can’t say it back. Next thing we know, Rory is up at 6 am distracting herself with a mile-long to-do list. Enter Lorelai (Rory’s mom), who takes the pen and paper away and tells Rory that what she really needs to do is “wallow.” Lorelai makes a to-do list of her own: eat ice cream, don’t shave your legs, watch a sad movie, and have a good cry. Rory refuses—but by the end of the episode, we see her curled on the couch in her pajamas, eating out of a giant tub of ice cream, finally ready to “wallow.”

This episode has always stuck with me, and while I’m a huge advocate for tears and taking your time, I may have taken this “wallowing” advice a little too far. If you read my last article, “I Feel Broken and Far From God,” then you know that 2021 was a rough time for me. I remember at the end of the year sitting on my own couch with my own Lorelai, crying and wondering why I still felt this way: empty, numb, and as good as dead. I was sick of it, but I didn’t know how to stop, and I was scared. 

I still felt entitled and strangely attached to my pain, in spite of all that God had mercifully restored. The breaking became my identity. Anxiety was my middle name. And secretly, I was afraid that if I stopped being hurt and started living my life again, I would be blindsided by something even more painful. It was safer to stay scared and broken because I’d be ready to deal with the pain of something new.

My mom advised me to open my Bible and start reading, to give God even a fraction of my time or attention. Truthfully, I still hid from him out of fear. I assumed that if I took the time to talk to God, he wouldn’t hear me, or if he did, he wasn’t talking to me anymore. I felt like I was taking too long to trust him. Graciously, the Holy Spirit interrupted this lie when my mom quoted Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Immediately, I got up from the couch and grabbed my journal. I began to confess all the wrong things I had been believing about God, and I asked for forgiveness. I asked God to renew my mind, and to help me believe how much he loves me. I told him I was seeking him, and that I trusted and believed I would find him. As I was praying, I remembered a conversation I had with my counselor, who suggested that I pick a Gospel to start reading through. So, I started to read the book of John, and when I got to chapter 11, I wept.

John 11 tells the story of a man named Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus that “the one [he loved was] sick.” Upon receiving this news, Jesus declared that “this sickness [would] not end in death.” But instead of rushing to his aid, Jesus stayed where he was for two more days.

Do you think Lazarus was afraid? Or hurt that Jesus let him endure this suffering? Or maybe he was anxiously awaiting Jesus’ arrival, and as the hours stretched on and he got sicker, do you think he started to doubt? Perhaps he was disappointed, thinking, “Jesus, where are you? Don’t you love me? Why aren’t you here with me and making me better?”

We don’t know for sure if Lazarus thought any of these things, but if I were in his shoes, I would surely be given to think and feel this way. And this is where I got stuck. With each successive breaking I endured, God seemed more and more absent, and I felt more and more alone. Utterly afraid and abandoned.

When Jesus finally arrived, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. If the sickness would not end in death, then why did Lazarus die?

What if, sometimes, God lets things die so he can raise them up again? I could feel him beginning to raise something in me.

Stirred to action, Jesus marched toward the tomb and commanded that the door be opened. The stench of death and decay oozed forth from the grave. With authority, “Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’” And the crowd watched in amazement as it happened. 

When Lazarus came out, he was still completely covered in death. Jesus said to those who were gathered, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” And as I read, I realized I was still wearing my grave clothes. I was still grieving the loss of what had been returned to me, and I was preparing for it to all be swept out from under me again. I felt undeserving of God’s mercy and restoration, and I was scared to learn to live again.

Imagine if Lazarus had chosen to “stay dead”— or, at least acted like he was.  I’m imagining a scary, smelly mummy going to work, picking up groceries, and heading to church on a Sunday morning. Sounds ridiculous, right? Not to mention all the things he’d be missing out on: the light of the sun on his skin, the feeling of clean and calm after a quick rinse, the loving touch of his sisters’ embraces. He could not continue to live as if he were dead and have a full life, and neither can we.

If you are living in your grave clothes, it’s time to take them off.

If you’re still not sure what this might look like in your life, here are a few practical tips to get you started:

  • Tell God that you are struggling. He already knows it, anyway. There is nowhere you can go to escape God’s presence, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
  • Tell a friend you are struggling. Jesus commanded others to help Lazarus get out of his grave clothes. Your friends can listen to you and encourage you and cover you with prayer.
  • Identify the lies you are believing and find truth you can hold onto. When I’m tempted to think I’m too far gone, I remind myself that NOTHING can separate me from Jesus’s love (Romans 8:38-39). He weeps with us in the thick of it and rejoices when we rise again.
  • Preach to Gospel to yourself. “Gospel” means “good news.” The good news is that Jesus died and rose again for YOU! His sacrifice covers your sin once and for all, and he intercedes daily on your behalf so that you can always draw near to God. Your sin is not too bad to be forgiven, and his love for you is everlasting and unconditional. Repeat these truths until you believe them!
  • Ask God to renew your mind, increase your faith, and help you in your unbelief— to relieve your burden.

These are prayers God loves to honor because he loves you, and he is for you. Just as Jesus assured Martha that her brother would rise again, he looks at you with love and compassion and says, “So will you.”