Jesus, where are you? Why is this happening? How much longer will we suffer?
Questions I have asked and I am sure you have asked too. They usually occur during a challenging time in life, a loss or an illness or death. The times when Satan lives up to his description in John 10:10 as a “thief who only comes in the night to steal, kill and destroy (NLT)”. Then we ask those in the church setting for answers and get the truth, unfortunately vague, but still the truth we know. Answers like Joshua 1:9, where we are reminded that God will never leave nor forsake us. Or Jeremiah 29:11 giving us strength that these things will work out for good because God’s plans for us are to prosper.
Please do not misinterpret my intention, I truly love these promises. These verses, taken within context, are most certainly ones to speak over others during trials. However, the point I am trying to get at here is that sometimes those answers do not go down to the heart of the matter. They tiptoe around the sensitivity and attempt to be there, but at arms-length. And so in those moments of confusion and isolation these prosperity verses seem irrelevant. Then what are the answers to these questions? Well, let us focus on an example where the Bible presents these questions before the living God-man, Jesus.
John 11:1-43 tells us the story of Lazarus, his death and resurrection through Jesus Christ. A quick recap and a bit of context: Lazarus was the brother to Mary and Martha. Jesus was very close to them and loved them practically as family. Lazarus fell terminally ill and his sisters sent for Jesus, asking Him to come. Jesus chose not to heal Lazarus, telling His disciples He is choosing to raise him from the dead instead. Why? “So that you may believe.” (John 11:14) Eventually Jesus arrives –four days ‘late’- and Martha greets Him saying; Jesus if only you had been here then my brother would not have died. Statements we say all the time; if only … then.
Jesus and Martha then dive into a bit of in-depth , yet fundamentally basic, theology. Martha tells Jesus what her head knows, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24 NLT). But Jesus is a smart guy, He knows this is simply knowledge and not belief. Man battles with unbelief and God is always concerned with the heart. Hence Jesus responds in verse 25 with “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? (NLT)”. To which she responds yes. He does this as a way to challenge not just her thoughts but her heart.
Proceeding to the second sister, Jesus is confronted with the same statement; if only you had been here then my brother would not have died. At this point Jesus weeps, then goes and raises Lazarus from the dead.
So, what answers does this passage give us about Jesus’ character? Jesus shows up. Jesus listens. Jesus comforts. Jesus shows compassion (in weeping). Jesus brings life.
Sadly, these are only seen in the midst of healing. What about before then and during the waiting period? In order to fully divulge this we need to understand God’s heart and where His focus is. His focus has always been on His kingdom, those in His kingdom and the glory it is due. Right from the start Jesus told His disciples that He would go to resurrect Lazarus. Jesus had no intentions of healing Lazarus, He had a Kingdom focus and intended to bring the glory of God to realization.
As Martha and Mary confront Jesus with what they believed would have been the right proceedings we come to see one thing, their focus is not on the Heavenly realm it is on the fleeting moments of this life. Even though they understood with their minds who Jesus was, they lacked conviction. This is why Jesus waited so long, so that He could bring about belief stemming from their hearts, because this is what He is most concerned about. He came so that they may believe and retune their focus not on themselves and their troubling situations, but realigning it to the Father’s – making it a Kingdom Focus. We are just the same, losing sight of what purpose Jesus came to serve.
I get that life is tough. I understand when tragedy strikes. I know pain. I see frustration. I relate to wondering. And through all of this I must convict you of your complaints. Where is your focus through these trials? I beg of you, do not become self-focused and self-centric. Give glory unto God for what He has done. He has showed up. He listened. He comforted. He has shown compassion. He has brought life. All through Jesus’ life, Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection.
Do not be lazy and plead with our Saviour to simply deliver you. Lean on Him and gain more than answers from these stripping circumstances. The Father loves you very much and the Rabbi wants to teach you to understand His heart.
Be thankful for these times as you will be blessed with a maturation of your faith – heart knowledge – as well as understanding – head knowledge (James 1:2-5).
Live It Out
A practical way of living this out is by changing your focus, become Kingdom focused. Make note of the times God has been there for you. The times He has answered why these things happen and ended your time of suffering. Allow it to become an “altar of remembrance”, something that will serve as a reminder to you.
I pray the Lord gives you peace and a heart of love in true understanding. Patience to overcome. Kindness, goodness and gentleness toward others as you persevere through trials. Faithfulness to endure with strength and self-control to not be consumed in anguish for life’s injustices.