Two little words, one major verse, in the midst of one of my favorite stories of Jesus’ power and authority.
Maybe you remember the context. Or maybe, like me, your eyes have quickly swept over these two precious words in a hurry to get to the climax of the story. You see, it is in the midst of these two words that Jesus was on His way to raise His friend, Lazarus, from the dead. He had been dead for four days now so Lazarus’s sisters, Martha and Mary, were in full mourning. They had sent for Jesus, telling Him that their brother was ill. But Jesus intentionally waited to go to this family He so loved.
Why did He wait, you ask? For two reasons, I think. One is, as Jesus Himself states, so that His disciples would believe that Jesus did in fact raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:14-15). But the other reason, however, can feel a little harder to swallow. John, the writer of the gospel, says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5-6).
Wait. He loved them so He stayed? Yes, He loved them so He stayed.
But isn’t love relieving pain? Getting out of hard situations? Doing whatever you can to make your loved one’s life as easy as possible? Isn’t it, in fact, unloving of Jesus not to go right away to at least comfort Martha and Mary, if not to heal Lazarus so he won’t die?
This past week I was at a large Christian conference with Cru called Indy CC. During that conference I was able to hear from Paul David Tripp, a well-known pastor and Christian author. One afternoon he spoke from 1 Peter 5:6-10. Over the last few days the first two verses have been running through my head. First Peter says,
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Paul Tripp then stated that the question is never ‘Does God care?’ but rather will you recognize His care when it comes?
So, I have to ask myself, do I recognize God’s care when it comes in this story? Jesus didn’t rush to relieve Lazarus, Martha and Mary’s pain. Instead, in His deep care and unbelievable grace, He walked through their pain with them so that they could see His glory. Paul Tripp calls this uncomfortable grace. God takes them someplace they never would have chosen to go so that they could know Him more.
But, Jesus’s heart isn’t removed from their pain. Remember, Jesus wept. Jesus wept. Have you ever seen someone weep before? It is full, unhindered grief. And Jesus wept with Martha and Mary even when He knew they would see their brother with breath in his lungs and pep in his step again later that very afternoon.
What does this tell us about our Savior? He cares and His love for us is fierce. He cares so deeply about us, our pain, our wounds, our sin. He mourns with us when we grieve and are hurt, even when He knows how He is going to redeem them.
Another quote resounding in my heart since this conference was shared by a staff woman, Laura. She said, “Tears in God’s economy somehow, someday, turn to laughter.” How Lazarus, Martha and Mary must have laughed in joy for years to come after walking through so much grief and pain. How grateful they must have been to be held in the fire, without instant relief, because of how much more their now knew their Jesus.
I have to ask myself, what pain am I hiding from? What is my heart crying out for relief from? How can I recognize God’s care in the midst of it? And how can I joyfully embrace this grace, as uncomfortable as it might feel right now, that He has lavishly given me?