I’ve been thinking about Martha for several weeks. Martha’s life, or what I know about it, flashes through my head–the difference between the beginning: irritated with her sister for not serving as hostess with her when Jesus was in the house and then one of the last stories we know about her: her honest, no-nonsense talk with Jesus after the death of her brother. I tend to be a Martha, so I can relate and sympathise with her shortcomings. But I love her faith in the Lord and candid speech, regardless of the circumstance, with Jesus. I especially love Jesus’ willingness to meet her where she was and gently help her walk forward in her faith, something I appreciate every day.
So Jesus delays his visit to Lazarus, deliberately not going in time to heal him, or even healing him long distance with just a word–which He’d already done for someone else, so we know it’s possible. He finally arrives and the Jewish mourning for the dead Lazarus and for his sisters who have lost their brother is already in full swing. Interestingly, Martha comes out to meet him first. She point blank tells Him she knows He could have healed Lazarus. She has the faith that Jesus could have healed him and she believes her brother will be raised on the last day. Her faith in the future is assured and strong but her faith in the now seems a bit more fragile and fragmented.
She goes so far to say to Jesus “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11: 27) Martha knew He could do it–He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. She all but asks Jesus to raise her brother from the dead right then, but doesn’t. Maybe she was trying to be subtle and not demanding. Maybe she was afraid He’d say no and she couldn’t take the disappointment. Maybe Martha was simply acknowledging she knew He could if He wanted, but she didn’t know if He wanted to raise Lazarus. Maybe she thought it was asking too much–that resurrection now was too much to ask, after everything he’d already done. I don’t know.
Could it be she thought that since Jesus didn’t prevent her brother dying in the first place that He certainly wouldn’t help two women in their plight now? That if He didn’t save them from the “small” issue–Lazarus’ illness, why on earth would He do something now in their bigger grief from their brother’s death?
I certainly have places like that in my life. I know that “all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” I know (like Martha), that everything will be put right on the Last Day. It’s between then and now that I sometimes need a faith infusion. I pray that God will heal me or someone else, that the job will continue, that the problem will be worked out and well…it doesn’t. The person’s not healed, the job ends (again), and the problem is still there, if not worse than before I prayed. I think to myself “If only God had ‘shown up’ in this situation, this wouldn’t have happened and things would be better.” But He didn’t have to “show up”. He was there all the time. His timing is simply different (and better) than mine and His outcomes are far superior than anything I could possibly even ask or imagine.
There are times, like in the case of Lazarus, that God’s ultimate plan causes things to look so much darker and unbearable in the present and in the imminent, foreseeable future that it’s hard to believe that He is even aware of what’s going on, much less in control of the situation. But Jesus plainly told his disciples when His beloved, innermost twelve were confused by what he said about Lazarus’ sleeping: “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 11:14-15) Instead of taking the “easier” way of healing Lazarus from his illness, (something Jesus did often)…He didn’t. He allowed the circumstances to look worse; impossible; hopeless. The man was dead. Not mostly dead. Really dead.
To allow God’s will for resurrection of life to take place in the future, the circumstances in the present looked like death.
Final. Irreversible. Permanent.
Is your life like that? Do you have circumstances that appear to be permanently final and full of loss or grief, or just plain awful? I know I have and will. But that’s the time to push farther in our faith, not give up or feel abandoned. He is waiting until there is no way the situation can be saved except by Him, that the resolution coming must come from Him, because there’s just no other way for this to be fixed by our feeble human hands or ideas. It is unfixable, except by the Lord, so when He restores, we believe.
Believe in His love and His sovereignty. Jesus wept when he saw his friends and the mourners and their grief. I wonder, in that moment, if He wept for all of us: for our frailty as humans; for our lack of understanding of how temporary this world is; for our bewildered grief in the loss of those we love; and for the fear that ensues when people are taken from us and the loss of security when we feel so out of control. What love and compassion He showed that day, as He wept for that little band of people! He even felt the sting of the death of a friend, so He knows what our pain feels like. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burdens, the God who is our salvation!
So press on, in this life, that can seem so bewildering, full of the unknown. When hope seems scarce, when His still small voice seems lost in the cacophony of modern life, when the path you’re on seems full of stones or you can’t see where it’s going or even when that path seems to disappear altogether; when the dream God gave you dies, hold on. Just hold on to Him; He’s not forgotten you or your circumstances. He’s there, weeping with you and for you. Remember He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you” when you can’t see Him through your tears or feel His presence through your pain. While your life may seem full of the unknown, know it is not unknown to Him, and He will direct your path if you trust Him. He is as interested in your present as He is your future!