Have you ever had a desire in your heart, or the opposite, a worst fear? You ask God often to grant your request or protect you from your fear – Then voila, you end up with the exact opposite of what you desired, or your worst dream comes true?
I know first hand the gifts of God that have blown my socks off, and the desires of my heart being filled way past my dreams. But, I also know the experience of asking God for something diligently, and receiving the opposite.
I have felt deep disappointed in God, even yelled in anger at what he allowed to happen. I have swayed with feeling of confusion and resentment for the snakes in my life. In fact I have been dealt a big nasty snake recently and I have been desperately clinging onto hope, and so I felt it fitting to reflect along with you.
I have seen many, many, people fall away from God because of the BIG “WHAT THE HECK, GOD?!”, but we can’t escape the reality that sometimes we end up with a snake, when we were begging God for a fish.
But is it really a snake?
This leads me to today’s devotional
The Death of Lazarus
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, 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 sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness 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 sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” John 11: 1-9
Here is a story of two sisters whose brother is very, very ill and they are panicked. I am sure that their brother was not only their loved one, but a provider, and protector for his sisters. They expected him to get well again, but as he grew weaker, and weaker, I am sure a hard reality began to sink in that they might lose him.
They have been first hand witnesses to the miraculous healing and power of Jesus, healing every disease and sickness, and they haven’t just heard of the Jesus who heals, they have a personal relationship with him.
Perhaps they had a surge of hope when they thought, “Jesus will know what to do! I’ve seen him heal, he will help us”
So the sisters send word to Jesus and he promises that it will not end in death.
I can imagine the relief they felt as they received promise from the Lord himself that their brother will not die and the excitement they must have felt when Jesus added that “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Which to them may have meant, ‘watch Jesus come in and heal him from his sick bed, just like all the other miracles!’
Then one day passes, and then two, and I wonder how the sisters felt as their brother worsened, slipping in and out of consciousness? Where was Jesus?
Jesus’s disciples try to prevent Jesus from returning to Judea where Lazarus is, because it is too dangerous, Jesus tells them they must go…
“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” John 11:11-16
Jesus informs the disciples that Lazarus is dead and he was glad he didn’t show up to prevent it!
WOAH, this goes so against our human eyes and experience. Why, when the sisters asked in complete faith for their promise that the opposite happened and their worst dream came true? Why would God allow this to happen? He said it would all turn out okay, but this is clearly NOT OKAY GOD!!!
Can you relate to this grief? Can you relate to these questions that I am sure these sisters were wrestling with? There were no text messages from Jesus to say “I’m on my way”, he just didn’t show up in time to prevent this tragedy, and I am sure they felt abandoned by God, and that he promised them a fish, and they got a deadly snake. They may have even felt a bit embarrassed as they spread the hope and faith around “don’t worry about Lazarus,” maybe the comforted their family and friends “Jesus said he was coming and he’s going to heal him”
Have you ever had great faith in a situation and God just didn’t show up?
How did it make you feel?
When Jesus Finally Arrives.
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” John 11: 19 – 37
Wow, this is one of the most, real, powerful and emotional, scenes in the bible. picture yourself there. The grief, the loss, the desperation, all because God didn’t show up.
Martha continued to have faith that God would step in, but Mary couldn’t even face Jesus and sent her sister to greet him. When Mary finally did meet with Jesus her first words were words of hopelessness … “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” and Jesus has the nerve to promise her that he will not die!
BUT HE’S DEAD AND BURIED!
I know I have had moments in my life where my hope in a situation wasn’t just failing but gone, dead, and buried, and like the next verses will reveal creating a unbearable smell in my life!
JESUS WEPT … so profound this statement, a study for another time, but it reveals that God was grieving with them, and cared for their state, even though he knew the big picture.
Know one thing, no matter what you face, know God grieves with you.
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11: 38-44
In that moment, all was restored, even though Lazarus actually did die. God allowed pain, grief, and tragedy to come upon them because he had a greater picture in mind. It’s not easy for the Lord to watch us suffer loses, he doesn’t withhold promises and allow bad things to happen with an indignant smirk on his face, he is holding back with compassion, but with his eye on our greater good, and an even more glorious redemption.
This is not an argument that God causes all grief and tragedy, so don’t wander there. However, in this circumnstance He did, and sometimes in our life, He does.
We cannot explain it, and it can hurt deeply, but we must continue to believe God for an even more glorious outcome.
Jesus prayed to God “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me,”
Knowing that God hears you, and will be glorified, will all make sense when we meet him face to face, and I believe that we will see the big picture then and give him the glory and praise!
So even though you may feel you have been given many snakes in your life, know that God WILL show up, and WILL present a giant TUNA!
This post is in memory of my beautiful lifelong friend Heather. I can’t wait to see you again!