Two years ago our family got together for a wedding. It was such a happy occasion. Relatives from throughout the U.S. met in Dayton to dance, sing, and eat. Everything was just right, or so we thought. Within a month, we all met back in Dayton for the funeral our niece’s daughter who had taken her own life. Such sorrow and grief. You could feel the heartache.

What do you say to a family who is in deep sorrow and despair? How can you help?

In Luke 7:11-17, Jesus encountered a funeral procession on the way to the cemetery to bury the only son of a widow. Yet, it ended up in a celebration. Jesus turned their despair into hope? Their sorrow became joy.

How can we turn sorrow into joy?

There were two crowds of people that day. What a contrast between the crowd that was following Jesus and the crowd following the widow and her dead son. Jesus and His disciples were rejoicing in the blessing of the Lord, but the widow and her friends were lamenting the death of her only son. Jesus was heading for the city while the mourners were heading for the cemetery.

Spiritually speaking, each of us is in one of these two crowds. If Jesus is with you, you are going to the city, we know as Heaven. If you are ‘dead in sin’ you are already in the cemetery and under the condemnation of God.

If you are in the crowd of death, you need to meet Jesus. He will bring you to life. In fact, He will give you abundant, eternal life.

Yet, if you are in the crowd with Jesus, you need to make a special connection with those in the other crowd. It is interesting that the city of Nain is about 25 miles southwest of Capernaum (Jesus’ previous location). Today it is an Arab village of about 200 people, and there’s no archeological evidence to suggest it was ever much larger. If this is true, for no apparent reason Jesus traveled a long distance to a relatively insignificant place in Galilee and met a funeral procession.

This reminds us of the providence of God – His control over all human choices, actions and events to influence His predetermined purposes. Unlike a miracle, when God supernaturally interrupts or suspends the natural course of events, His providence involves perfectly controlling natural events to bring about His purposes. Given the staggering complexities involved in coordinating even relatively simple events. God’s providence is in some ways even more awe inspiring than the miracles He performs.

I hope you will recognize that God still controls all human choices, actions and events to influence His predetermined purposes. Who you are, where you are, who you meet is no accident. Your decision is what will you do for the people God places in your path.

Jesus met a woman in despair. She was a widow who had just lost her only son. She was one lonely life among a large crowd of friends and mourners. The next day she would awake by herself, brokenhearted and abandoned.

How did Jesus overcome her despair? We can take the same actions to those around us who are in despair.

1 – Deep Compassion

Luke tells us that when “the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her.” This is the strongest Greek word possible to describe the Lord’s pity. The root word refers to what is inside (the heart, liver, lungs). It describes an emotion that has a physical effect. Jesus felt deeply for her.

It may possibly have been because she was experiencing what His own mother would one day experience at the death of her firstborn Son. It is noted that the word Luke uses for “only son” is the same word John uses for Jesus in John 3:16.

2 – Supernatural Power

Jesus simply went up to the dead boy and told to “Arise” or “Sit up.” And he did. That was ultimate power – the power to raise the dead. Life and death stood face to face. This scene demonstrates the essence of Jesus’ mission – defeat death and overcome it with victory.

The gospels record three times Jesus raised the dead: this young man in Luke 7, a little girl in Luke 8, and Lazarus in John 11. When performing other miracles, Jesus would sometimes do specific actions. But when it came to resurrections, He only used His Word. Clearly He wanted everyone to see that resurrection power rests in His spoken Word.

It should be noted that since no one asked Jesus to raise the dead man, this miracle was not contingent on anyone’s faith. Faith is not a prerequisite for God’s power to operate. God activates His power according to His will.

Christians today don’t have the power to raise the dead. However, we do have the power to preach the Gospel that will make a dead spirit live. The same power that gave life to this young man can give eternal life to whoever calls on the name of Jesus. You can change despair to joy by sharing the power of the Gospel.

3 – Huge Impact

Obviously this miracle brought joy to the mother. However, it also caused fear on the crowd that resulted in glory to God. Word spread throughout Judea (they were in Galilee) and eventually the entire region. This one act had a ripple effect on the surrounding areas. It completely flipped despair to hope for the entire country.

The Gospel has that kind of impact. Though Jesus changes one life at a time, only God knows all the people He can change through one person’s radically changed life.

Think of the worst case scenario. Maybe it is a funeral. What if Jesus was introduced into that situation. It could turn a funeral into a celebration.  It starts with connecting with the despair felt by the individuals. People don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Then you simply need to let Jesus loose. The Gospel has the power to bring life from death. The impact of that encounter will go way beyond your immediate context.

So here’s what you can do. Be aware of the sorrow and despair that has trapped the people in your world. Do you know people who are hurting? Make a connection. Don’t preach, just listen. Feel their sorrow. And don’t be afraid to share Jesus. He is more than capable of turning the script around for them and many others.