When God Seems Late
I used to pride myself on being early.
It was a discipline years of volleyball instilled in me.
I can still hear Coach now, "If you're not fifteen minutes early, you're late."
...and you get to run.
HARD PASS. I'll be there.
Now, I hate to admit it but I find myself showing up right on time or a few minutes late to things. Maybe I need sprints and the thought of running lines hanging over my head again to whip this girl back into shape...
But at least, I'm not showing up four days late.
That would be a problem.
People would think I'm crazy. Absolutely nutty. Thoughtless of responsibilities. Careless in my relationships.
Last week, we started to see how thoughtfulness is a driving force in loving others and feeling loved.
We love because He first loved us.
Or said another way, we think of others because He first thought of us.
I'm not trying to change scripture, but I think it's powerful to show the thoughtfulness behind love. It is our motivation. Any act starts with a single thought.
Regardless of how love is shown - a card, a compliment, a bouquet of flowers, doing the dishes, or going on a walk together - the thoughtfulness behind the gesture always speaks the loudest.
It just feels so good to know you were on someone's mind. Out of all the things they could have been thinking about, they were thinking about you.
Since this is such a strong emotion for us, the opposite is equally as strong.
We don't want to not be thought about.
We don't want to be forgotten.
And sometimes when God is not showing up the way we expect, this fear of being forgotten - not being cared for - comes blaring into our minds and begins to take root in our hearts if we're not careful.
We may slip into the lie that God is not thoughtful toward us or even thoughtful of us.
We talked about "the one you love" last week. We all have that someone in our lives who means more to us than others. And because of this, we put higher expectations on them.
What if you really needed them and their response is not just unexpected but it seems downright unloving?
What if that Someone you needed was God?
Sometimes we feel like God's response is not just unexpected but downright unloving.
As we saw last week, when we feel like this in our own lives, we can look to the stories in the Bible and see how Jesus responded then to understand why He might be responding this way now.
After all, He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
Where Are You God?
Picking up the story where we left off, remember Lazarus has died. His sisters, Mary and Martha, are deeply sorrowful. They come to Jesus and tell Him the friend He loves is sick.
Jesus doesn't drop what He's doing and run to their rescue like we might expect. He simply reassures them this is not the end.
Then, as we keep reading, we find it's not only what He didn't do, but now it's also what He does that leaves us bewildered and questioning His goodness and mercy.
So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” - John 11:4-7
Would a good God stay where He is for daysssss? Would a good God not move toward us in our pain?
He waits two days before moving toward Judea.
We need to remember though going to Judea is dangerous. As we continue reading this chapter, we learn Jews were trying to stone Jesus in Judea. Even Thomas (commonly known as "Doubting Thomas") prepares the other disciples for the danger ahead, saying,
“Let us also go, that we may die with him.” - John 11:16
They thought they were walking to their death!
(Knowing his reputation as one who doubts, I have this image in my mind of SNL's Debbie Downer. Ya know the one who is always negative with the "Wah-wahhh" music in the background? I'm not saying Thomas is Debbie Downer, but I'm a connector. This is how my brain processes things. Do with it what you will.)
But anyway, I'm so glad they recorded this part for us to read. It's comforting to realize Jesus will not let anything stand between us and Him when the time to intervene has come.
Even possible death.
Ever felt like God was late?
We go from "Where are you, God?" to clamoring "WHERE ART THOU?!"
You know, we're desperate. Maybe if we speak in King James version, He'll answer...
Kidding, of course. Kind of...
And then He shows up - after the fact.
We get fired up, a little spicy. Our eyebrows go up and our necks may even start to swerve like, "Oh now You show up?!"
That was Mary and Martha when Jesus arrives - four days after Lazarus has been placed in the tomb. Four days, y'all.
Martha doesn't hold back. I'm not sure she was doing the neck swerve with us, but she's thinking the same thing people would think about us if we were four days late.
Thoughtless of responsibilities. Careless in relationships.
Yeah, that last one had to hit home for her.
She's respectful and calls Him Lord, but says,
..."If you had been here, my brother would not have died." - John 11:21
But I read this one more like...
..."IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE..."
"JESUS, WHERE WERE YOU?! NOW YOU'RE LATE. GET ON THE LINE."
Just kidding, she wouldn't make Jesus run sprints. But in the same way showing up late to practice makes Coach question how much we care about the team, showing up late - not just fifteen minutes but four days late - she questioned how much He cared for her brother.
Confusion and disappointment, anger and betrayal, mourning and intense grief within these words.
Yet, she pivots to faith with her next breath,
"But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” - John 11:22
Despite the confusion, the disappointment, anger, betrayal, mourning, and intense grief, she chooses to believe God is still good. He is still able.
I'm realizing in these moments when we feel like God has forgotten us, it's actually the other way around. You and I, like Mary and Martha, may have forgotten who He is.
When we find ourselves waving our arms around like an S.O.S. saying, "God, yoo-hoo! Remember me? Where are you? Please don't forget about me," God is reaching for our hearts, saying, "Forget Me not. Remember Who I Am. I Am the Great I Am. You can trust Me. Even now."
Then, Mary comes. She's weeping and shows Jesus the tomb. And Jesus' response here allows us to see new depths of His heart.
Jesus wept. - John 11:35
He is not heartless or merciless. His timing was not a lack of care. He weeps with us in our suffering. He knows our loss. He knows our frustration in the waiting. He loves us too much to give us what we think we want - what we think a good God would give.
He will not settle for good when immeasurable glory is in store!
Approaching the tomb, He's once again moved. The questions and doubt continue.
Jesus asks them to move the stone from the tomb, and everyone is saying, "Oh, you really don't want to do that. Lazarus has been in there four days. The smell alone will knock us all out."
After taking away the stone, we see something remarkable from Jesus.
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.”
What is Jesus doing?! He's intervening with the Father on behalf of Lazarus and his sisters.
If He did it then, He will do it for us, too. He knows our pain, He weeps with us, and He goes to the Father on our behalf!
Truly, He is the way to the Father.
But He doesn't stop there. Jesus speaks with authority over our circumstances. Again, we see this with Lazarus.
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. - John 11:41-43
Truly, we're never forgotten - even when we're alone in a dark place that reeks of death.
He wants to use our suffering so others can be healed, too.
Jesus never forgot about Lazarus. Rather, Lazarus and his sisters were heavy on His heart. He chose to use the death of His closest friend to show God's resurrection power through His Son.
Whether we see ourselves as Mary or Martha in this story or maybe even Lazarus, God has not forgotten us. He sees us and loves us and will bring good of our circumstances.
If it's not good, He's not done.
When we begin to doubt His character, we can call up His references. We look in the Bible and see time after time, He does not forget His people.
So what are you going through right now causing you to wonder if God has forgotten you?
Let us find strength in the resurrection power of God represented in Lazarus' story. May we find joy in the intercessor we have in Jesus and peace knowing His ways are above our ways.
His timing may seem off to us - four days, four weeks, or four years or more - but He's never even a moment late. May we rest knowing His love for us is deep. We are not forgotten. He is carefully, intricately involved in the details of our days.
Even more, His love allows us to be vessels of His glory.
For, this life, well, it's not about us. We are invited to be a piece of the larger story, the greatest story ever told.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
I love hearing from you, so go ahead. Leave a comment. Be brave. Maybe your comment will speak life into someone else!