Monday, March 12, 2012

Does God Care When We Suffer?

Last week, we asked a tough question...Does God care when we suffer?

Because He knows everything that is and was and will be, maybe He is able to view our suffering with a dispassionate air.

Maybe not.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

In John 9, we read the story of the man born blind. A man, Jesus tells us, who had endured a lifetime of suffering so God would be glorified.

Then John 11 opens with these words…”Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany…”

Do you know the story?

I know you think you do…but do you really?

From this and other accounts in the gospels, it’s clear that over the course of His ministry, Jesus had developed a bond with three siblings from Bethany—Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

So much so that when Lazarus became ill, the sisters sent word to Jesus. They didn’t say, “come” or “help”—they simply apprised Him of the situation.

“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

When the message reached Jesus, did He drop everything and race to Bethany? No.

Did He heal from afar? I mean, we know He can. But no.

His response is eerily similar to what He said in Chapter 9. “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Here we go again. (I don’t know about you, but by this point, if I see God is going to be glorified through something, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it.)

The next verses…well…read them for yourself.

John 11:5-6 - Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was. (ESV)

WHAT?

He loved them…so He waited a few days?

Seriously?

Does that sound like love to you?

I know…I know…you already know how it ends.

But imagine if you didn’t.

Imagine if you were Lazarus. You know they’ve sent word to Jesus. But you hurt. You know Jesus can heal. And you know He loves you. He’ll make the pain go away. Right?

We don’t know how long Lazarus was ill. We do know that by the time Jesus decided to travel to Bethany, he was dead.

And by the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, he’d been dead for four days.

Imagine if you were Mary or Martha.

Your brother is dead. And you know the message got to Jesus in time. Imagine the turmoil in your heart as you grieve.

Finally, a murmur from the mourners. Jesus approaches.

When they see Him, both Mary and Martha say the same thing. “Lord, if you’d been here my brother wouldn’t have died.”

Some people find fault with them for this question.

I think those people haven’t used their imaginations, um, ever. It’s easy to be pious when you know what God is up to.

They did not know. Jesus hadn’t pulled them to the side and let them in on the plan. The disciples knew, but even they didn’t know what they knew.

What happens next is extraordinary.

Jesus sees Mary weeping. He sees the mourners weeping. And the Bible tells us that He was deeply moved in His spirit and troubled. And then…

Jesus wept.

Why? He was the only One there who had a clue! He knew Lazarus would be wrapping his sisters in a bear hug in about five minutes. What possible reason did He have to cry about anything?

Jesus told us in other parts of John that He did nothing but the will of the Father…that includes crying over the death of a friend.

When Jesus wept, He gave us a glimpse into the heart of our Father.

He wept over their suffering. Wept over their pain. Wept over their confusion. Wept over their fear.

He was fully God. And fully human.

He knows what it feels like to grieve.

When the current of life is raging and pulling you under, He feels your desperation. When death approaches, He understands your fear.

Yes, He sees the big picture. Yes, He’s in control. But He isn’t indifferent to your pain.

When you wonder if any of it matters to the Almighty, remember this…

God wept.

God knows.

God cares.

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Are you taking the Joy Dare with me? It's not too late...it's so worth it!

March 12
A gift in wind ~ Geese flying high and loud
A gift in water ~ A long, hot shower
A gift in white ~ Cream in my coffee...yum!

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3 comments:

Ellen Andersen said...

Well said, Lynn. I've been there before (lots of times) but one time I ranted at God for not doing what he could. "You can do anything. So why don't You?" Years later, I learned a little about what came of it, but still don't fully understand.

One thing I learned that sticks with me is this: we can't trust our feelings. They change. We have to trust that God will use us, in His time, and in His way. God's character never changes.

Vonda Skelton said...

Powerful, powerful post! And so needed today. I pray God blesses your obedience in sharing this. I'm sending it to someone right now...

Lynn Huggins Blackburn said...

Ellen - I think that's one of the hardest things...making the choice to trust His character when we know He can change it but He doesn't. Thank for sharing that!
Vonda - Your comments are always such an encouragement to me! Thank you for sharing!