Martha and Mary’s brother was sick. No doubt, they had summoned the best doctors and women known for applying herbs to restore health. But now, with Lazarus at the point of death, they sent for Jesus who could heal the sick, the lame, the blind, and the demon-possessed. Surely He would come before it was too late.
John 11 tells us that Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus so we naturally expect the next line to say; He dropped everything and ran to his friend’s bedside. I’m sure that was what the sisters believed would happen. But to the contrary, it says; “So when He (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Wait, what?
Over the past few years, I have felt like Mary and Martha as I’ve pleaded with Jesus to come and heal the one we love. Trying to make sense of His delay, each day brings with it the fear that soon it might be “too late.” Many doctors have applied their training and wisdom, yet the illness grows more severe and God’s silence seems more perplexing.
When darkness settles over us like a cloud it tests our beliefs about God. We may wonder; if God is truly all-powerful and simply chooses to stay away, is He really good? What is good? Have we wrongly defined the word all together?
Could it be that God wants to change our small view of what is good while helping us discover the grander goodness of His character? Are His many acts of kindness toward us mere splashes of His glorious goodness that awaits us when we stand in His presence?
Even more important, when we begin to doubt God during divine delays, have we failed to learn what the Puritans knew so well; “that blessedness does not lie so much in receiving good from and in Thee but in holding forth God’s glory and virtue”?
In spite of how it may have seemed to Mary and Martha, we know that Jesus did not lack compassion because, upon seeing his friend’s tears, He wept. We also know that the Lord did not shed tears because Lazarus had died because he was about to raise him from the dead.
That encourages me. It tells me that even though Jesus knows the glorious end of the story that will soon be unfolding before us, He enters into our grief and suffering. He trusts His broken children to trust that He has not forgotten us as it sometimes appears. Even if His delays lead to death, as was in the case of his dear friend Lazarus, it is always so that a greater glory may be revealed.
It seems clear that when Jesus asked for the stone to be removed from the tomb, the only thing Martha anticipated was the odor of death, a sad reminder that Jesus had not come on time. Yet, it was right there, when all hope was gone, that Jesus chose to reveal His glory!
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” With these words, Jesus thanked His Father and called Lazarus to come out.
There are five ways this account encourages us to wait and trust God in spite of how hopeless things currently seem in our own lives.
1. God entrusts hard assignments to those he loves. Many faithful men in the Bible and throughout history have suffered times of deep spiritual darkness and confusion over God’s ways. Even Jesus felt forsaken by His Father on the Cross, though by His obedience many sons would be brought to glory.
While we might feel that what we’re going through is keeping us from the things we want to do for God, in reality, our hard assignment may be the very door He uses to reveal a greater demonstration of His glory.
2. God’s delays always serve His eternal purposes. Often, we are tempted to interpret God’s delays as unloving when, in fact, He is working deep miracles of grace in and through us as we wait on Him. We wonder why he has stayed away rather than come in answer to our prayers, yet His Word assures us He is near to the brokenhearted. Even while our hearts are asking questions of God, He has a question for us. Will we trust Him even when we see no evidence of what He is doing?
“And will not God give justice to His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long over them? I tell you, He will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?” Luke 18:7-8
3. God wants to enlarge our understanding of who He is.
Mary and Martha had come to know Jesus as their friend and Rabbi and they were starting to realize He was the Christ, the Son of God who had come into the world. But now Jesus wanted to reveal Himself as the Resurrection and the Life who has power over life and death.
God uses trouble and suffering to decrease the hold the world has on us and increase our love and reliance on Christ for everything pertaining to life and godliness. We must guard against the temptation to create a god who is comfortable, demanding He provide whatever we think will make us happy. God wants us to know and believe who He is as He’s revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
4. God allows the death of our dreams, expectations, and hope in this world to cultivate a greater desire to see His glory.
“For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you might believe” John 11:15. God graciously gives us many good things, but never lets us forget that the true gift is Jesus Himself. Anything that stands in the way of our rightful worship of our Savior must be removed.
5. God uses the trials, delays, and griefs of this world to increase our faith.
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” God always hears our prayers and could answer them instantly, but then our faith muscles would grow weak. As we exercise faith during times of waiting, grappling with who God is and what He is doing in the world; He faithfully conforms us to the image of His Son, teaching us to abide moment by moment in Him.
O Lord, help me to see how good Thy will is in all, and even when it crosses mine teach me to be pleased with it. If it be consistent with Thy eternal counsels, the purpose of Thy grace, and the great ends of Thy glory, then bestow upon me the blessings of Thy comforts; If not, let me resign myself to Thy wiser determinations. (Valley of Vision, p. 10-11).
For His glory, let us believe.
Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,
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