There’s much about God I don’t understand.
Sometimes the Bible just doesn’t make sense to me. God’s ways are mysterious, which can be frustrating to a perfectionist who prefers straightforward answers, clear direction, nothing ambiguous. Life is easier that way.
However, in God’s mysterious way, the most incomprehensible and unsettling passages often contain the deepest truths. Like John 11. When I recently heard a pastor preach on the raising of Lazarus, I remembered how that very passage, irritating and infuriating as it was at the time, had transformed me years ago.
John 11:1-6 reads:
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ 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.”
The passage made sense until verse 6. It seemed to me that if Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus, He would have gone when they needed Him. He would have rescued them. He would never have let Lazarus die.
I felt for Mary, Martha and Lazarus. When Jesus didn’t come, they must have felt devastated. They must have thought that their close relationship with Jesus would have meant something to Him. They must have assumed that He would come when they told Him that Lazarus lay dying.
He healed complete strangers; why wouldn’t He heal His friends?
But Jesus didn’t heal him. Jesus didn’t even show up.
I knew how His friends must have felt.
I was in the darkest period of my life and God had let me down. Though I had pleaded with God to deliver me, my circumstances were getting more twisted and painful each day. I had faithfully served Him and now that my life had fallen apart, God didn’t even seem to care.
It seemed that other people, young believers and even unbelievers, had their prayers answered more quickly than I did. Maybe God was using my life as some type of cosmic example, to bring about some greater good, even if it wasn’t good for me. I was trying to reconcile that in my mind.
At the same time, I understood that God had bigger purposes than my life alone. Lazarus’ illness was for the glory of God and His glory comes before all things. The raising of Lazarus brought God tremendous glory – it was the most loving thing to a world that desperately needed to understand who Jesus was. I knew that raising Lazarus was definitive proof that Jesus was no ordinary man. He indeed was the son of God.
But my question remained – how was Lazarus’ death loving to Lazarus and his family? The Bible says that it was. The Bible says that is precisely why Jesus didn’t go immediately. Because He loved THEM. Not just because He loved the world.