Then Jacob . . . mourned for his son many days. All his sons and daughters came to comfort him but he refused to be comforted . . . Meanwhile the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar (Genesis 37:34-36).
I had no idea what I would say to Steve’s mother. Still fairly new to the whole pastor thing, I had baptized Steve when he was thirteen or fourteen years old. Now, not very many years later, I was doing his funeral.
I showed up at the house, exchanged a few greetings and pleasantries with visitors gathered in the den. Someone pointed down the hall to Steve’s room. “She’s in there. You can go on back if you want.” Part of me didn’t want to go anywhere near that room. Maybe I was afraid of what I’d find there.
The room was rather dark, the only light coming from the window. She was sitting in a chair in front of that window, holding some of his things in her lap. I remember the tennis shoes. I cannot recall what I said, but I remember the shoes and her far away gaze through the window. There would be no comforting her, not today.
Jacob refused to be comforted. His sons and daughters tried, often and earnestly. They urged him to eat, invited him over. I see Jacob staring off at something no one else can see, the stained robe in his lap. Jacob, refusing to be comforted. “‘In mourning I will go down to the grave to my son.’ So his father wept for him” (Genesis 37:35).
Something in us craves relief from this scene. We need to come up for air. The relief we seek is found in the word “Meanwhile.” In most English translations of the Bible that’s the word that comes right on the heels of Jacob’s weeping. It’s a word that permits a slight glimmer of hope.
“Meanwhile” points to a story that’s taking place off stage. It’s a drama that no one sees, except us as the readers. Granted, Jacob’s other sons knew that Joseph was alive. That they allowed their father to go on grieving speaks to depth of their hatred of both Joseph and Jacob. But the “meanwhile” was beyond Jacob’s knowing. It was a different reality, one that he would come to know years later.
You may know someone today who refuses to be comforted. That someone could be you. The nature of the grief looks different from person to person. Some are consumed with loss, some are consumed with worry about the future, some are consumed with bitterness over a perceived or actual wrong done, some are consumed with denial and won’t listen to reason.
In all of this there is a “meanwhile.” God is doing something right now that you know nothing about. There’s a story unfolding that you can’t see and you surely can’t write for yourself. It may take a long time before the page turns and you discover what God was doing all along. For today, hold on to this one word: “meanwhile.”
Have you ever refused to be comforted? Ever discovered a “meanwhile” in your life?
You are always at work, O God, creating realities that I cannot imagine, creating stories that involve me but are not of my making. But those “meanwhile” dramas are so hard for me to accept, so hard to wait on. Help me to embrace the “meanwhile.” Gant me the comfort I need for this day. Amen.