John 11: 1-6
Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay ill, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’
When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This illness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was two more days…
Psalm 27: 14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
“One of the mysteries of the spiritual life is that sometimes Jesus doesn’t come when we need Him most.” (Stephen Smith)
Jesus has just been told that Lazarus is sick. The two sisters don’t even have to name Lazarus when they send their message to Jesus. They simply refer to their brother as “the one whom you love”. Clearly Lazarus was a very dear and special friend to Jesus. Jesus probably spent many days and nights at Lazarus’ house in Bethany, enjoying good food and great fun with his friend. Yet when he hears the news that this same man is very ill, he doesn’t drop everything to go immediately to heal him. Instead he stays the other side of the River Jordan for another two days. In essence, he delays the miracle.
Why did he stay away for so long when he was needed so desperately? As we read this story, we have the advantage of knowing that Jesus did show up - eventually. But Mary, Martha, and the dying Lazarus only knew that God was absent. As they waited and waited and waited for Jesus to show up, their hearts must have been frantic with a mixture of questions, anger, and confusion.
One of the most difficult and frustrating things we face as Christians is when we have to wait on God. When we pray earnestly about a situation in our lives, we believe and even expect God to answer quickly. And in some cases, that does happen. But then there are times where the opposite seems to happen and we encounter a situation where there is seemingly no answer to our prayers. Finally, there are those situations in which the Father does give us what we are asking for, but it takes much longer to happen than we wanted or expected. This was the case in this story of Lazarus. Jesus delays going to Lazarus’ house in Bethany. In fact, as we later find out, he delays it until after Lazarus has actually died.
If the Father has made a promise that you haven’t yet seen fulfilled, don’t lose heart. I know the delays of God can be the cause of much worry and many tears, but unless you have heard a firm ‘no’ from God, don’t give up hope. Keep trusting, keep praying and keep on believing God even though you don’t yet see what you long for. Understand that help is on the way. It’s just a matter of time.
I have found the words of Aaron Keyes’ song, ‘Sovereign Over Us’ helpful in my own seasons of waiting:
There is strength within the sorrow,
There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning,
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting,
When beyond our understanding,
You're teaching us to trust
Your plans are still to prosper,
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
Faithful forever, Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us
You are wisdom unimagined,
Who could understand your ways?
Reigning high above the heavens,
Reaching down in endless grace
Youʼre the lifter of the lowly,
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me,
Your promises are my delight
Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good,
You turn it for our good and for your glory
Even in the valley You are faithful
Youʼre working for our good,
Youʼre working for our good and for your glory.
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