To read Part 1 of this post click here.
“I know I’m not supposed to be, but I’m angry with God,” I heard her choke out across the telephone line. “He always speaks to me in times like this, but I haven’t heard anything from Him!”
My heart broke as I listened quietly and let her go on.
“He says His mercies are new every morning, but it’s been such a long time and it’s still so dark and cold in this house. Where is my morning?”
I knew this wasn’t the time to preach, so I just told her I was so sorry and that God understood her pain.
“I don’t think God does care. If He did, He would have rescued me by now.”
I hung up the phone, overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness. For the rest of that day, I found myself wrestling with God.
God, why aren’t you coming to rescue when you know the pain that is being suffered here? Why are you silent when we need to hear from you more than ever? This feels like a cruel joke, God! I know what your Word says, and that we need to have faith in times like these, but won’t you just show yourself?
As I drove my car through the rain, turning these thoughts and prayers over and over through my mind, I was suddenly stopped by a voice in my head so clear, I could almost hear it audibly:
I was stunned. Of course! How could I have forgotten this story?
And in typical God fashion, He brought this story to my attention again the very next day in a sermon I was listening to, just to convince me that He was speaking to me and was really trying to make a point.
Remember Lazarus. Remember how I came.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like sometimes we spend so much time focusing on what the rest of the Bible says about our situation, that we forget the actual experiences where Jesus lived those words out and proved them to be true.
So if you have found yourself in a place where you are straining to hear God’s voice amidst all the confusion and chaos in your life, please sit back and listen to a story….
Mary, Martha and Lazarus were extremely close friends of Jesus. Jesus had come and eaten in their home, His feet had been washed by Mary’s tears and bathed in her perfume; He loved and was loved by them.
Lazarus became deathly ill, and so his sisters, knowing that Jesus had the ability to heal the sick, sent word quickly to Him, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Jesus replied, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Upon hearing these words, I am sure that those who heard them were filled with comfort and assurance. Jesus was going to save the day! He could be trusted. Lazarus would live!
However, instead of coming immediately in his friend’s hour of need, Jesus remained where He was for two more days.
He was silent. He purposefully delayed.
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
Upon seeing Jesus, Martha laid out her heart out before Him. “Lord, If you had been here my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, God will give you whatever you ask.” She honestly voiced her disappointment while at the same time still clinging to her faith in Jesus. She knew that even in the seemingly impossible, God could do a miracle.
Mary, on the other hand, was really struggling.
You see, Mary had a very close relationship with Jesus. She had sat at his feet, breathing in every word He had spoken. She had completely turned her life upside down for Jesus and surrendered everything she had to Him.
But now, in her hour of need, He wasn’t there. He was silent.
How could He do this to me and my family? She must have thought while she hung back at His arrival.
I can imagine the bitter anger and confusion that welled up within her as she tried to come up with an explanation to how her beloved Messiah had been too late.
Everyone else has come to show comfort and support, but He was only two miles away and He still couldn’t come until it was too late?
The experience of the deep, sweet intimacy of His presence, made His absence all the more painful.
Martha ended up having to go and get her sister. A role reversal from the more familiar story of when Martha was too busy for Jesus and Mary sat at His feet. At her sister’s prodding, Mary immediately got up and went out to meet Jesus.
As she came to Jesus, she fell at His feet, and the bitter words of disappointment burst out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
She voiced no follow up declaration of faith that He could perform a miracle even now. Just angry disappointment and tears void of hope.
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus, moved by compassion and love for his friends, released His emotion and wept sorrowful tears.
The Jews watching said to each other, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”*
In a dramatic climax, Jesus did the unexpected and raised Lazarus from the dead.
The delay that appeared to be a heartless act of indifference turned out to be the build up of suspense before the grand finale.
You see Jesus did love Mary, Martha and Lazarus. So much so, that He didn’t just want to save Lazarus’s body, but He wanted to do a full resurrection of his soul.
He could have come and healed Lazarus immediately, but He knew that waiting would result in a greater miracle to behold. So great a miracle, that those who witnessed it could not help but see beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the God who saves.
That was a miracle that was worth the wait.
Hebrews 10:37 says,
“In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.”
Did you see that? Even if it seems like it, God does not delay!
How long is too long for God to be silent, before we determine that He doesn’t care or He won’t answer? He hears our cries for help and He has not forgotten about us. It may seem like He is taking forever, but our time here is so short in light of eternity! We must remember that His timing is not our timing. I promise you, He will not come a second too soon or a second too late. Who are we to put time limits on Him?
Would it be better if our God was predictable? If He fit within the lines that we have drawn out for Him?
It is so easy to assume when we are going through suffering that we know what is good for us and that we are capable of determining the best course of action for God to take. But if that were the case, who knows what would have happened to Lazarus if Jesus would have followed Mary and Martha’s plan?
If He did what was expected of Him, there would have been no reason to stand in awe of Him.
And is that really the kind of God who we want to serve?
Some genie in a bottle God who comes when we say come, and does what we want when we say please?
What a small view of God!
If we always could feel and hear God, we wouldn’t have to exercise faith. Faith proves that we really do believe that what He promised us is true.
Something else God has been teaching me lately is that the reason we can’t hear Him is because our minds our too loud. Often times, it is not that He is silent, but that we are looking for Him in the wrong places. We expect God to act in a certain way, but He does not fit into the predictable pattern that we would like Him to.
In the Old Testament a prophet named Elijah was feeling weary and defeated, and so the Lord told him to go out on a mountainside and wait for the presence of the Lord to pass by.
A great and powerful wind tore by, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then followed a powerful earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After this came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Finally there was a gentle whisper. Elijah knew when he heard it, that this was the Lord.*
God knows that chaos rages within us. That is why He lovingly seeks to bring us to a place where He can quiet our souls and we can hear the clear purity of His voice that brings peace.
After I had finished listening to my grieving friend and hung up the phone, I opened my Bible to Lamentations 3.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
There it is…but when? Where is the faithfulness?
“I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
He is our portion….in the waiting time He is enough.
I kept reading,
“The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.”
My heart filled with peace as the words resonated to my soul.
It is good to wait quietly for the Lord.
So if you, dear one, have found yourself straining to hear God’s voice in the middle of your storm, do no be quick to be angry with God and assume that He has let you down! Let these words fill your heart with peace today;
He will show compassion on you. So great is His unfailing love!
*Scripture infused with my own interpretation. To read the Biblical account, please see John 11:1-43