11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
Reading today’s passage together with the verses around it (11:1-10, 15) shows Jesus had His reasons for allowing bad experiences and things to happen, and that the target audience is the immediate family and includes extended audience/observers too:
- Verse 4 explains this sickness “is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
- The use of the word “so” in verse 6, suggests his decision to stay where he was two more days (during which time Lazarus would die) included consideration of his love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
- Verse 15 shows Jesus’ delay was also to cultivate the disciples’ belief in him/God.
It is not known whether the sisters and Lazarus knew Jesus’ purposes for why they had to experience Lazarus’ death and why the sisters had to go through such grief. If they did not know, we can imagine they would wonder why Jesus did not arrive sooner to stop the course of events. If they knew (perhaps someone sent word back), we can also imagine they would take cold or little comfort to watch their brother be so sick and die, that Lazarus suffered during his sickness and death, and everybody would be ask how Jesus could consider this a loving response to their situation. If you were one of those in the know (e.g. disciples), you would probably be confused at His response too.
So it is with us today, we go through tough times and we ask God why. Consider though, if God did give us an answer – and there is a high chance his answer might be similar in nature to what He said in the Lazarus story since His character does not change – how does it completely appease/satisfy us in the moment to know that answer? When we are in the middle of a turmoil, we care less for the answer. Rather, we want immediate resolution or relief, we just want this thing to stop, go away or be fixed already.
This is not to say that we should not ask God questions – ask by all means, He can handle your frustration and confusion and will not take offense at how upset you get at Him – but we need to realize that we lack the capacity to appreciate fully what He is doing during tough times, even if He explained Himself, and even if it is for amazingly good things that we too would agree with later.
Therefore, what affects our ability to navigate life well, especially during challenging times, is to deeply know God’s heart, character, and to be sure that He purposes good for those who love Him (presumably us). This takes daily investment in our relationship with God. This way, next time we cannot see His hand, we can find it in ourselves to trust His heart and go through the experience with our hearts turned towards Him. He is and will be with us.
(For the rest of this week, we will continue looking at this incident to see how it evolves, so stay tuned.)
Thoughts for the day
- If you are going through a challenging time and are not seeing His hand move for you, after you have finished questioning Him, remember to also ask God what does it look like for you to trust His heart today. He will let you know, and then go do it or be it.
- As preparation for the tougher days, what can you do today and everyday to invest in your relationship with God to know His heart and character?
Dear God and heavenly Father, I want to trust you more and be confident of you, especially on really bad days. Thank you for taking all the steps to come be in my life and heart, soften my heart with appreciation for what you have done so that I may begin to and increasingly reciprocate with my attention and devotion. Amen.