Life is not always a bed of roses.
Loved ones’ hearts get hurt and sometimes halt.
Lives get ruined. Even after praying, evil still rears its ugly head,
It seems everyone is set up for an appointment with Mr. Disappointment.
What do we do? What do we say? How do we feel?
What if God doesn’t come through?
What if, after praying earnestly and believing and even getting convicted about God’s power and goodness, he still doesn’t show up?
How do you perceive God through window panes of pain?
Do you, like Jeremiah, drown in tears?
Do you, like Job’s wife, curse God?
Do you, like Job, question God?
Do you, like Peter, deny God?
Or do you still believe in God’s power and continue to praise His name?
Does your faith wane or does it win?
The bible tells us a story of a family that went through a disappointment with God. Their brother was terminally ill and there was nothing these poor sisters could do to help him.
If it was money, they would have sold everything to buy the needed drugs.
If it was encouragement, they had more than a heartful of up-words for their ailing brother.
If it was love, Lazarus was spoilt.
But no, this was a special case. There was only one thing they could do for him physically. Nothing.
No sacrifice would have worked. It was beyond their strength. They were in need of a miracle.
Luckily for them, they had a friend that could help. Can you believe it? These guys were buddies with God Himself! What more would anyone need?
Yet, when they needed him the most, Jesus didn’t show up. Maybe he was too busy. Perhaps he had other bigger issues to think about, like saving his skin from the deadly plots of some blood-thirsty Jews (John 11:8). Whatever the reason, their prayers went unanswered. Or so it seemed. Jesus didn’t show up. They watched helplessly as their beloved brother succumbed to the inevitable jaws of death.
When they wailed and mourned around his body; Jesus was not there.
When they ground their teeth as he was placed in the ground; Jesus was not there.
When their hope seemed to disappear behind the tombstone; Jesus was not there.
But Jesus did finally show up. FOUR DAYS LATER! And he had his mourn-face on. Such nerve!
Yet what may have been even more appalling than a God in tears was the reaction of the two sisters. Let us recreate the scene once more. Imagine you are one of the disciples in Jesus’ entourage. Closer still, imagine you are John witnessing the encounter between Christ and each of the sisters.
Examine carefully both the actions and words of the two sisters.
A servant rushes into the house and announces that Jesus is around. And what does Martha do? She stands up abruptly, and with a renewed spring in her step, rushes out to meet him. You can’t miss the smile under her tears and the renewed gleam of hope in her eyes. Her reaction may not have made much sense to the people around her, but it meant everything to Jesus.
Despite her pain, despite her circumstances, she still had time for God. She still rushed to minister to her God. She still worshiped. She recognized that the circumference of her circumstances was Jesus Christ.
Her words confirm it;
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. BUT I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:21-22)
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, BUT even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18)
“BUT”, the sealing word of Martha’s faith. The despite-of kind of trust.
Her faith was bold enough to step upon the head of her fears.
Her hope was bright enough to see through the fog of despair.
Her trust in God’s power arm-wrestled her unbelief, and won.
And so should our trust in God. Our praises should be heard above the storm. Our worship should pierce through the darkest nights. Our joy should surpass even the deepest heartache.
Mary on the other hand, acts differently and her words echo her actions too. She doesn’t run after her sister. Instead, she chooses to stay and mourn. She’s just lost a brother, a good cry is justified.
Does her reaction sound familiar? Most of us prefer being Marys. It’s not bad to be a Mary; it’s not a sin to be Mary. In-fact, it’s comfortable to be Mary. Remember the last time Jesus had visited this same home? The mood was very different from now; the frowns now filling the room were all inverted then. Lazarus was alive and full of life.
You recall the scene in Luke 10.
While Martha ran about, Mary sat and listened.
While Martha worried. Mary Worshiped.
In fact Jesus preferred Mary’s choice over Martha’s chores (Luke 10:42).
But today, the tables had turned. The one with the radical ministry was now the one with the radical faith. And Mary, the gentle one was now Mary, the timid one. Read what Mary says. In fact, it is not very different from what her sister said a few verses earlier. She repeats her exact words;
“Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32)
Sadly, that’s all she says. No hint of trust. No sign of hope. No glimpse of faith. Only despair. She didn’t have a “BUT” prayer.
So, what if God doesn’t come though WHEN we thought He would? What if God doesn’t act according to our expectations? Do we become more hopeful, or do we grow more doubtful?
God always answers prayer. That’s a fact. Sometimes he gives a nod. Sometime he shakes his head. But whenever he seems to take his sweet time, be assured that the answer will be worth the wait. Even if it’s a long wait.
Do you have a “BUT” prayer?
Mary, didn’t have one. And so she wept. On seeing this, Jesus welled up. I like to think it was her lack of faith and her words of hopelessness that brought tears to the eyes of Christ.
Yet the miracle happened. A greater miracle than what they prayed for. It turns out Jesus was not afraid of “dead” lines… and He raised Lazarus to prove it.
For the fame of His name,