Have you ever prayed to God for healing, yet healing didn’t come? Do you wonder why? Do you wonder if God hears you or cares? He does. God loving us – and our being God’s child – does NOT mean we will be shielded from difficulties or heartaches in life.

“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’—John 11:14-15

From John 11:1-6, we learn that Jesus receives word from his friends, Mary and Martha, that their brother Lazarus is ill. Yet rather than going immediately to his friends or even healing him from afar (which is what we would expect Jesus to do for someone he loved – since he did this for others [see John 4:43-54]), he waits two days longer before going to them. In John 11:14, Jesus tells the disciples plainly and frankly–without any parables, metaphors or even watering it down–that Lazarus has died. Furthermore, Jesus says he is glad he wasn’t there! He sees the bigger picture. He sees the opportunity to strengthen the faith of the disciples (as well as Mary, Martha and others) by performing a greater miracle.

If we aren’t careful, we can casually read this passage and think–okay, Jesus has a different perspective. He knows he will perform a miracle and Lazarus will be fine. So it’s okay. Even though Mary and Martha don’t see it yet, they will later. But, think about it. How would you feel if this story was about you and your loved one? Can’t you just imagine how Mary and Martha felt when they sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill (John 11:3)? Can’t you sense their urgency in getting news to Jesus? They know how much Jesus cares for them (John 11:3, 5). They know Jesus can heal him if he wills – in person or from a distance. All he has to do is give his word or touch. Yet, he seemingly does NOTHING! In fact, he intentionally DELAYS two days longer in going to them (John 11:6)! He knows they are distressed and hurting. He loves them. Yet he delays …on purpose!

If this were you praying for Jesus to heal your loved one, how would his response make you feel? If you have had a loved one die after praying for healing or a miracle, then you know how that feels! It can be devastating. We may have questions. We may have doubts. We may be depressed, confused, angry, saddened, frustrated and/or lonely. Yet, by reading this passage of Lazarus’ death and how Jesus responds and why he responds that way, we gain insight that can help us. Many times God does answer our prayers for healing by providing it. In those instances, it’s easy for us to see how God is glorified. Yet, if God decides to delay or seemingly not answer our prayers for healing, we must remember that he sees a bigger picture. It’s not because he is mad. Through reading these verses we see that he doesn’t delay because Mary, Martha or Lazarus have done anything wrong. He doesn’t allow Lazarus to die because he wants Mary and Martha to hurt. Rather, Jesus sees an opportunity to grow their faith and to glorify God in a mightier way.

When we are facing disappointment, heartache, delay and even death, we need to lean on our source of encouragement and hope – Jesus and the Word of God. Think of this scripture as well as others, such as Ps 50:15. God wants us to come to him when we are hurting. Then we are to trust him. As we’ve discussed previously, we need to focus on God and his purposes, rather than our pain and circumstances. There is a bigger picture. God wants to grow our faith. Here is where living on our faith rather than sight comes into play. I just wish it were easier and not so painful, don’t you?! But, I guess if it were – it wouldn’t take much faith.

 My Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for speaking to us through your Word. Thank you for showing us how you are more interested in strengthening our faith than you are our comfort. As much as that isn’t fun nor easy to read – it’s important to realize. It’s so easy to see how you are glorified when our loved ones are healed. I can remember so many instances where we saw your hand in mom’s fight against cancer. You made your presence known and felt through the doctors and nurses taking care of her, through times she recovered when it didn’t look like she would, through the care from friends and other family members during that time, through the use of CaringBridge and many other examples during her illness. Yet, it hasn’t been as easy to recognize your presence and your love for us in her (and our) struggles, and especially her ultimate death. Yet, you have a bigger picture.

This passage discussing Lazarus’ illness and death – illustrating Mary and Martha’s reactions – and describing what Jesus was doing at the time and why – helps me to see that even when it’s not clear to us – even when it hurts – even when it seems you are not around – you are. You care. You love us. You are very interested in how we strengthen our faith and glorify you in the process. I pray you will keep working in me. That scares me to pray that – because many times that means more hardships … but I do want to grow closer to you – to strengthen my faith – to have assurance that you are with me at all times and to glorify you in the process.

Christmas and the holidays. This can be such a joyous time. There can be so many wonderful memories that we cherish. We are making new ones each year. However, it can also be a time of great pain. So often our thoughts go to our loved ones who are not with us or are currently struggling. Help us to be mindful of others. Help us to keep our focus on you and what is important at this time. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for your gift to us as we celebrate the birthday of your son and our savior Jesus Christ. May we remember THAT – that Christ’s birth is the meaning of Christmas. We love you. Amen.