From a devotional by Susan Sutton
In Mary and Martha’s understanding, they had done everything right so they could expect that Jesus would come and heal Lazarus. They had a relationship with Jesus. They went to Jesus with their problem. They went to Him with faith. They believed that when Jesus heard about Lazarus’ illness, He would come and heal Lazarus. But Jesus lingered where He was. He didn’t come. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days (John 11:5-6).
Without knowing the rest of the story, we are bothered by Jesus’ response. His delaying unsettles our expectations of how God should behave. We are familiar with the words from a song: “Those who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.” Mary and Martha didn’t know why Jesus didn’t show up, but we do. The fact is that Jesus delayed on purpose.
As we read this account in the Bible, we get a glimpse of two sides of the story—God’s side and man’s side. On God’s side, Jesus chose not to respond in time. On the other side we see two women in the middle of a crisis. Mary and Martha are trusting Christ. They are expecting Him to act in response to their prayers/requests as they are watching their brother slowly die before their eyes.
Have you ever been in such a place? Maybe your situation hasn’t been so dramatic, but was there something dear to your heart that you brought to Jesus trusting in His love and power, but He didn’t come through as you wanted or expected? God could have prevented a bad thing from happening, but He allowed it.
During the time my husband and I lived and worked in the country of Chad, we were attempting to place our children in a boarding school. We knew that the school had a very long waiting list, but we also knew that other children had gotten in. We prayed, and others prayed with us, but in December we received a letter saying there was no room for our children. God had done it for others, but not for us. We felt as if the wind was knocked out of us. Mary and Martha surely felt this way—they knew Jesus could heal; He did it for others, but not for them.
The more we believe in God’s sovereignty (supremacy) the harder it is when He doesn’t come through for us, when He doesn’t make life work for us, when He doesn’t meet our expectations of how He should behave. We can lose heart with God, with prayer and with life. When we think God doesn’t come through, when life doesn’t work as we expect, we need to find our rest, not in our circumstances, but in Christ. We need to understand and believe that there is something greater that He wants to do in our circumstances (situations) that we just don’t see yet.
An example of God performing a greater work in people’s circumstances is the story of Israel’s first king. God rejected Saul as king over Israel for his disobedience (I Sam.15:22-23). The prophet Samuel mourned deeply for Saul. Finally, God asked Samuel how long would he mourn for Saul for God knew He was calling David to be king (1 Sam. 16:1). Somehow, in the midst of what we perceive as disappointments we need to remember that these are God’s appointments.
If God delays, He knows something we don’t know. He sees the end of our journey and what we need to get there. From the human point of view, we see disappointments and difficulties. When we choose to see from God’s perspective, we can see His appointments and opportunities.
The story of Lazarus, because we know that Jesus did call him forth from the tomb, reminds us that there is a God-side of the story. This fact encourages us to trust God even when we don’t yet see His side of the story.
We also learn that when God delays there is a deeper work He wants to do in us. We see this in Jesus’ conversation with Martha (Jn 11:21-25). God is doing “soul work” in each of us. He uses our life circumstances to do that work. He is always bringing us back to what we are created for. He knows that our deepest satisfaction happens when we are connected to Him, when we are truly treasuring Him. He knows that we will experience the deepest security when we are believing and trusting Him.
Finally, the Lazarus story encourages us to trust in God for His timing and to trust in what He knows.
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