By Linda Rex
Have you ever felt like God just totally let you down? I mean, not in a little way, but in a big, huge way?
Has he ever seemed to have just closed his eyes to the disaster that was looming in front of you, that you had repeatedly told him about, that you begged him to save you from, and he seemed to have just have ignored you? Did God just let it crush you, overwhelm you and ruin your life?
It’s hard to imagine that a God who is love would even consider doing such a thing. How could he be love and yet at the same time stand by and watch us be devastated by something he could have prevented? Indeed, it’s hard for us understand the heart of God in such matters.
The apostle John tells the story of a man in Bethany named Lazarus who contracted a fatal illness. His sisters Mary and Martha sent for their dear friend Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. It seemed like a simple matter, and they trusted that Jesus, being such a loving, compassionate friend and having the power to heal, surely would do whatever was necessary to make Lazarus well.
When he heard the news of Lazarus’ illness, Jesus told his disciples to wait. They misunderstood his motives, thinking he was concerned about himself, that he wanted to avoid trouble in Jerusalem.
In fact, he deliberately waited until he got the news that Lazarus was dead. Then he said, “Don’t worry. This is all for God’s glory.” And against their protestations, he told the disciples they would be going to Bethany.
On the face of it, not responding to the plea for healing would seem to be the most arrogant, heartless thing he could have done. It is no wonder that when she finally did see him, Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21) Yeah, Jesus, where were you when we needed you? I can’t believe you let us down like this!
Was Jesus really that insensitive and heartless? I think it is significant that in this place we read those two precious words: “Jesus wept.” Jesus, as God in human flesh, wept. He cried openly and fully.
He wasn’t heartless and cold. He shared the pain and loss and sorrow of his dear friends, and he expressed it. Even though he knew in the next moment that Lazarus would be alive again, he grieved with his friends and shared their pain. He understood what it cost them for the will of God to be accomplished in this moment. And it broke his heart.
In our simplicity, we often don’t perceive the depth, height, length and breadth of God’s love or wisdom. It’s hard to understand how allowing deep suffering in one person’s life in this moment can be such a blessing to others in the next. Or why God would be deaf to our pleas for intervention now, but then he may intervene dramatically some time later.
It’s easy to question God’s motives, to suspect him of being heartless and uncaring. Our trust of God is often tested, and when he fails to live up to our expectations of what a loving God must be like, we feel let down and disappointed. We find it hard then to have any faith in a God that does not deliver.
Could it be at this moment, Jesus understood the pain his disciples and followers would feel in the next few days as he would be crucified and buried in a tomb? Was he hoping that they would catch a glimpse of the glory that would come through death and resurrection and so have hope in spite of the circumstances?
We don’t know the mind of God, but we can know his heart. His heart toward us is always and ever love—the full expression of his very nature. And even when we don’t know his mind we can always trust his heart. For in the end, he will prove that he is and always has been love, just as in Jesus, he demonstrated it through death and resurrection.
Father, thank you that in Jesus you showed us depth, height, width and breadth of your love for us. Holy Spirit, renew in us the faith to believe that your heart toward us, God, is always and ever good. Grant us the grace to trust you even when we feel only disappointment, despair and loss. Remind us that every tear we shed and every pain we feel you share with us in Jesus. In his name we pray. Amen.
“Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” John 11:35–37 NASB