For eight years my wife and I lived in Scotland. Our three oldest children were born there. I remember how my parents would cry when, after a short visit with them in the United States, it was time for our return to Scotland. They knew it would probably be a year before they would see their grandchildren again, and the prospect of separation broke their hearts.
In this letter Paul remembers Timothy’s tears when they were separated from each other. Paul, likewise longs to see Timothy. This letter reminds us that one source of our tears is the deep connection we have to others in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we find ourselves bound not only to biological relations but to a much larger family. Indeed, Timothy is Paul’s “beloved child”; Paul is Timothy’s spiritual father. (See Philippians 2:22.)
Nor do tears flow only because Paul and Timothy miss each other. Paul writes Timothy at a time when Paul is suffering, and, what is more, everyone has deserted him. In this context he urges Timothy not to be “ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner” but rather to “join with me in suffering for the gospel.” Love involves us in both the joys and the sufferings of others. We do not simply become fond of others; we find ourselves bound together with them in their triumphs and tears. When we shed these sorts of tears, it signals spiritual health. They testify to our profound connectedness to others. And they indicate that God has so broadened our hearts that we feel concern not only for our own well-being but for the needs of others.
We thank you, God, for the life we share with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Give us courage to share not only in others’ joys but in their sufferings as well. Amen.
Moving from the sadness of Lamentations 1 to the thanksgiving prayer of 2 Timothy 1 is to move from total darkness to “the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abol- ished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Lamentations 1 and Psalm 137 are both painful laments from the vantage point of the exile. Both laments drama- tize the expression of honest pain, which offers to God anger as well as grief. In contrast, the New Testament texts speak of faith. The writer of the epistle delights in Timothy’s heritage of faith, nurtured by mother and grandmother and empowered by divine gifts of love and self-discipline. But it is a heritage that must put itself at risk for the sake of the gospel and not inch in the face of inevitable suffering. The disciples ask Jesus for “more” faith, only to be told that faith cannot be quanti ed.
• Read Lamentations 1:1-6. When have your tears of regret washed away illusion? How do you begin again after repen- tance?
• Read Psalm 137. Recall a time when someone angered you. How did you deal with your anger?
• Read 2 Timothy 1:1-14. The author states that when we shed tears for another person we “testify to our profound connect- edness to others.” When in your life have you shed tears for the suffering of another?
• Read Luke 17:5-10. How do you experience gratitude even as you live with the demands of the Christian life?
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