“So when he (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place that he was.” John 11:6
“I don’t understand why Jesus would stay longer if someone he loved was ill and close to death.” “Mary and Martha must have felt hurt that he didn’t come right away.” “I know Jesus said his reason was to bring God glory, but he stayed two days more. Lazarus was dead for four days. Why didn’t Jesus just head his way? When he showed up he still could’ve raised him from the dead and Mary and Martha would’ve only suffered two days.”
Trying to make sense of timing that doesn’t fit our time table is difficult. We want to grasp “the bigger picture”, but still only have our viewpoint based on our own lives. Such an incomplete picture of timing that involves so many people.
We were studying John 11 in a women’s Bible study. (May need to read for this post to make sense.) So many questions surrounding Lazarus and the two suffering sisters desperate for Jesus to come.
In my own life I can think of several times I’ve waited for Jesus to come and heal someone I love. Once it took several years, another we are still waiting for healing and yet another, it felt he never came, because the loved one died. God’s timing isn’t something I grasp.
In the story of Lazarus, Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus had died. Jesus raised him back to life on that day. While reading scripture we start the Passion Week within the very next chapter (John 12). The week Jesus himself would die and be raised. Lazarus was a seed of hope planted before the main act. God’s timing allowed his followers to see the possibilities before devastation even landed. But four days Lazarus’ sisters waited.
Waiting is difficult. What we do while we wait tells a story about our faith.
When my son was small he struggled with hearing issues. His eustachian tubes were underdeveloped and curved irregularly. The doctors (we retired three along the way) wanted to wait before surgery to see if his ears would work themselves out as he grew. My son did have a couple of surgeries, but we waited for the eustachain tubes surgery. Needless to say, through the years his hearing was inconsistent. There were times he couldn’t hear if you were talking to him from behind and other times he would lose up to ninety percent of his hearing regardless of which direction. It was frustrating. We prayed for complete healing, but the doctors would tell me he would probably never hear fully again with all the scaring inside his ears even if the inner ear healed.
My son loved music. His passion grew as he grew older. He fell in love with the idea of working as an audio technologist or in music production. Fields that required complete hearing. He still was failing his hearing tests. Another ear surgery was in the works when my son took on the responsibility of praying for himself.
At the very next appointment, he passed his first hearing test. The eighty year old doctor (Yes, eighty. He was an extraordinary elder and excellent doctor.) smiled at my son as the results came in. It was the first of many passed hearing tests.
Now my son’s dreams have moved on to include owning his own record label which wouldn’t require perfect hearing, but a bigger picture moment occurred in his life through the healing of his ears. His faith was strengthened; plus, the power of prayer became part of his experienced story. His testimony. His understanding. He could now share with others how prayer helped in his life. While I don’t doubt our prayers helped, I fully believe God was waiting on my son to take responsibility for his own faith to experience his healing.
Mary and Martha and all who were watching that day added to their experienced story, too. They learned Jesus had a power no one in their lifetime had seen before. Life over death. Power beyond understanding.
Another story. When my daughter was four, we found an irregular mole on her scalp. She’s very fair complected and had white very thin hair at the time so the growth of a mole announced itself. I took her into the doctor who looked at the spot and said, “Mrs. Thornton, this needs to be removed right now.” He then proceeded to deaden the area and biopsy the mole.
My four year old daughter handled it like a pro, but it freaked me out!
Later the same day my husband and I attended a funeral. A couple of our friends had lost their first born to many complications. The baby lived a brief life, but the testimony of his parent’s faith impacts many still today. In fact, the organization they set-up to help other families experiencing what they experienced is doing amazing and remarkable works that encourage and bless others. As my husband and I sat listening to this family’s faith on display, we decided right then we had a choice to make. We decided to trust God with the life of our girl, giving thanks for every moment we were allowed to have with her.
I’m glad we chose to trust. The biopsy came back. It was a bad mole and they he had to take more tissue off my daughter’s head. Thankfully, that did the trick without any other medical attention. Although recently, she had to have another mole removed, today she is a healthy determined fifteen year old who loves ballet and has a passion for children with special needs. The lesson we learned watching our friend’s experience carried into our own faith story. Jesus taught us to trust God with our children, valuing every day we get with them.
It wasn’t just Mary and Martha who observed Lazarus being raised from the dead. There were neighbors, friends and other spectators. Many who came to believe in Christ because of what they witnessed.
During Bible study one lady shared how four days was the amount of time that the people during that period believed the soul to have left the body after death. In other words, a person was totally dead with no chance of ever living again on the fourth day. Four days of Lazarus being dead was needed to prove it was really a come back to life experience for Lazarus. For the awe of God’s real power to be on full display.
Even when we don’t understand and are hurting in the waiting, the bigger picture takes place- with or without us. We have a choice to make. We can trust God through the hurt, helping to advance his story into other lives, like my friends did during the loss of their son, or we can choose to not join in on God’s plan and be shocked as a spectator on the sidelines. Either way, his work will continue. Choosing to trust gives us the opportunity to be part of that bigger picture in a way that allows peace to replace fear. I choose trust.