“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.” – John 11:5-7 (KJV)
During my devotion this morning, I came across something enlightening in the aforementioned verses. It’s nothing profound really, probably not even something you have never heard before, but for me, it was a reminder and an insight into the workings of God.
As a mother, there have been moments where I have had to withhold or take away something from my daughter for one reason or another. I try to explain, when I am calm, that it is not because I want her to feel hurt, but because I want her to learn a lesson. And sometimes the only way to get her attention is to do something that I know will cause a reaction. Talking may not do it, but if I take away that tablet, or delay gratification in any way, it usually helps.
Most importantly, the point I always want to make in these situations, is that whatever I do, even if it hurts, it is out of love. I would never want my actions to be misconstrued for hate or extreme annoyance. I would never want her to feel that I illicit any joy or satisfaction from her pain because the truth is, when she hurts, I hurt. But there are some lessons that cannot be taught any other way.
As I read John 11 this morning which embodies the story of Lazarus’ death, I lingered at the three verses above and I meditated on them. I saw a sequence emerge that I hadn’t noticed before. It was a sort of step by step play of how God works and once again I saw God, the father and the ultimate parent, acting as any human parent would.
Verse 5 starts with a statement that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus. I believe this statement was made as clarification so that we wouldn’t misinterpret Jesus’ actions in the verse to come.
The following verse tells us that Jesus heard of the grave situation (pun intended) that Lazarus was deathly ill, therefore he delayed for two days.
The word ‘therefore’ in verse 6 is what brings the previous and the present verse together. It connotes a cause and effect that should help us to see the true character of Jesus. That though he chose to delay when he was needed the most and even though his actions would seem cold and distant, his motive was actually pure.
His motive was love.
When we combine the verses, we see that in essence, God was saying, I love them, therefore, I will delay their answer.
Let me rephrase to strengthen the cause and effect I want you to see in the scripture – “it is because I love you that I will cause you to wait.”
I know when I explain to my daughter that it is because I love her that I have to do certain things she may not like, she doesn’t understand. And how can she? It doesn’t feel like love. Love is supposed to be sweet and affectionate.
The effect of love should be joy.
If it causes conflict, how can it be love?
Many of us are struggling with this thought right now. How can God truly love me and allow these things to happen. If God’s love for me was real, he would have answered. He would have shown up. He would have given me the desires of my heart; the ones I have prayed repeatedly about. This does not feel like love.
But I hear God saying, “I do love you. Trust me that even this is for your good.”
I believe that God wants to affirm his love to someone going through a difficult time and perhaps is questioning His love. In a situation where everything is pointing to an inactive, distant God, God wants us to know that he is very present (Is 41:10). Our pains are his pain and he is touched by our hurts (Heb 4:15)
The lessons we must learn while we wait, the revelations to be had, the growth and strength we must achieve, happens in the most painful moments of God’s delay. However, if we hold on to the knowledge of his love for us, believing his word, then we can also hold on to the hope that he will show up and in fact all things do work together for our good.
Didn’t he show up for Mary and Martha? Didn’t he raise Lazarus from the dead. After all, wasn’t there joy and rejoicing? Weeping endured for a night, but joy came as he promised. So it shall be with you.
In what I call God’s delay of love, I just want to remind you that God says nothing can ever separate you from his love. You are the apple of his eye. (Ps. 17:8) And it is because he loves you, and he knows that the glory in your situation will be far weightier than the pain that he allows you to go through.
Keep waiting. Keep hoping. He is coming.