"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." John 11:6
The problem was big, yet fairly simple. Lazarus is gravely ill. Jesus is two days away from where His friend was living. Every second counts.
Word reaches Jesus that his friend, Lazarus, is in critical condition. Upon hearing the news, Scripture reminds us that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." These are friends of our Lord and He cares deeply for them. So, when He hears that Lazarus is near death, surely He will change His schedule, put everything aside, and begin immediately the trek to Bethany.
The story takes a very unexpected turn, however. "He (Jesus) stayed two days longer in the place where He was." During this delay, Lazarus indeed dies. What are we to make of this decision? What should Mary and Martha think about His choice to not arrive sooner?
Eventually, Jesus does show up. When He does, Lazarus has been dead four days. We do not have to wonder what Mary was thinking. The Bible tells us directly. "Lord, if you had been here," she says, "my brother would not have died" (John 11:32).
Her words express equal parts faith and confusion. We see her faith because she believes that Jesus has control over death and undoubtedly is convinced He could have prevented it. We also see her confusion as she cannot help but wonder why He did not show up sooner.
And right there is the place faith gets tested. When you know with certainty that God CAN do all things and yet He is NOT doing what you most desire, what are we to do? The emotions come rolling like waves crashing upon the shore. Anger...frustration...despair...doubt. Mary was experiencing the sea of emotions. Martha was too. No doubt you have been there as well.
There are many different ways to put this predicament into words, but here is one: If God can, how come He doesn't?
In the case of Lazarus in John 11, the answer is tucked away in verse 4: "It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
Jesus stayed away two extra days for the glory of God. Jesus delayed the healing so that He would be glorified through it. The delay was not cruel and neither was it arbitrary. The gap between the prayer and the answer to it had a purpose. Let me say that again...the delay had design.
Martha did not know the design behind the delay. Her sister, Mary, was not aware of the design, but she was painfully aware of the delay. Aren't we all when the delay affects us?!
It was not just the family of Lazarus that is confused by the details. Even the Jews were saying, "Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?" (John 11:37). The answer, of course, is...yes! He certainly could have, although He did not. Yet again, the delay had design.
Throughout this week we will examine more of this truth and what it means for us in our daily lives. But, we must begin here: the delays of God have design and we must trust in His goodness, sovereignty, and providence even when we do not understand the details.
Are you trusting in the Lord today in the midst of the unanswered questions in your life? Can you find rest in knowing that the God of the Universe, the One who made the heavens and the earth, has a plan for your life that will bring Him glory? How often our hearts tend to scream in silent agony, "God, I would trust in Your plan and Your timing if only I knew the details." We must never forget, however, that as Christians, we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
How do you walk in faith when you do not know the design behind the delay?
1) Meditate on the character of God to cultivate trust in your heart
2) Read the stories of God's faithfulness in Scripture and see how He has come through in the past
3) Remember that God is doing 10,000 things all at once in your life. He does care about your pain and your circumstances, but He also cares about developing a strength in your heart and a depth in your faith that will outlast the situation in which you find yourself.
4) Trust that He has a design and purpose that will bring Him glory. In the end, for the true believer, that is what we should most desire. We long for God to be glorified.
And so we WILL walk by faith even during the delay. God's ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), and there is design behind the delay. Let us trust and rest in that truth today.
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