"I count myself one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write." ~St. Augustine

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The "why" in pain

Why would she fail to meet Him when He comes? Was Mary so discouraged... so distraught that she fails to welcome Jesus when He finally comes? Was it sadness and despair alone? Or was it disappointment, anger or despondency that makes her ignore the teacher's arrival (John 11)?

Lazarus, her brother, had just died. She had walked the path of sickness that brings death. She had been sitting in mourning for days. Had she been stewing in her sadness? Had she been wondering? Had she been questioning Jesus and His friendship, this One she had grown to love? Had her heart been asking about His love for her, His love for her brother? Did the "Why!?" swell within her like a flood as the days went by and she had watched her brother dying? They had sent word to Him(v.3). He knew! ...she might have thought. He knew, He must have known!, but He didn't come? Why, Jesus? Why? Can you feel the mounting of frustration, confusion and despair that can come and compound grief?

Was it late at night, beside her brother's bed... that she wondered why this Miracle maker, her friend, wasn't coming? Why wasn't her Savior responding to her? Is that why when the house heard of His arrival (v.20), Martha went out to greet Him... but, Mary stayed at home? I don't know. Maybe she was too upset to even hear of His arrival. We don't know.

I do know that when I pray for something earnestly and hear "no response", I can begin to wonder and question. I can even question His love for me. I can find myself pondering the sin in my life and wonder after His silence. I can get upset... maybe even angry... at God for not "showing up". My night time, sleep deprived, moments can be filled with doubt and fear, frustration and accusation. "If you had been here!!!... he would not have died!"

What Mary doesn't know is the heart of Jesus. She doesn't know what we get to hear, in John 11, that Jesus knew the beginning from the end of this event. He knew what would happen to Lazarus and He knew what their hearts would learn from this. What Mary doesn't know is that her sweet friend, Jesus, is allowing all this for a deeper, greater, more significant good in her life! What she doesn't get is that His love propels Him to stay away! He knows that GLORY will be seen. He knows that this will bring life to their hearts.

She couldn't know this, no. Or could she? Maybe, just maybe, she could have trusted Him more. Maybe she could have known that if He wasn't coming it was for their good... it was because of His love for them that He allowed this pain. Maybe, just maybe, she could have assumed the best. Maybe she could have trusted this One she had watched, followed and loved. I certainly can't imagine myself in the same situation without seeing myself in the very same state of mourning and with the very same questions swirling!

Her sister, Martha, is just as confused and bewildered by Christ's slowness in response... "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died" and yet, in a fascinating statement of profound faith she says, "but,... But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask!" What was Martha hoping for? She was confused, "He wouldn't have died if you had been here!"... but, ... But, she says to Him... I know you! I know WHO you are and I trust that even now God will do what you ask! There is a sweetness of faith that accompanies Martha's response to Jesus. She is upset, yes. She is confused, yes. But, she there is an inkling of hope in her words and her subsequent confession in this verse.

I love that Jesus doesn't get his feelings hurt but Mary's ignorance of His arrival. Culturally, yes, this may have been a slap... but He doesn't seem to care. In fact, He seeks her out. Oh! How He is so faithful to keep seeking us out even when we hide away from Him in frustration, guilt or anger. "The teacher is here and is asking for you", her sister says to Mary. And, Mary's response is classic. She takes off running and falls at his feet! Can't you just see the scene? Weeping and clutching his feet... why? why, didn't you come?! If you had only been here? Oh, Jesus... why didn't you come?

It says that when he sees Mary's weeping he is deeply troubled. He is agitated, it says. He is upset. A bit further in the passage it says He wept. Why did Jesus cry like this? We don't really know why. Certainly it wasn't mourning he loss of Lazarus, for He knew Lazarus would be alive in only a few moments. Did He get upset and agitated because He saw her lack of hope? Did He get upset simply because He entered into Her grief. Did it pain Him so much to see her weeping that He, Himself, wept? Certainly God is the God of all comfort, mercy and compassion!

What we do know is that Jesus purposefully allowed this suffering and pain because He loved them so much! He knew that His glory, the glory of His Father, was the very best thing... and so He waited and didn't respond--- on purpose! He let them hurt, mourn and watch a sick man die because He wanted to teach their hearts more about Him and His Father.

Our God is certainly not opposed to using suffering and pain in our lives to bring about a better good... And, He is okay with the "why" we ask in the midst of it--- this didn't stop Him from showing forth His Glory that day. He still brought Lazarus back to life... He had intended it all along. His plans were not thwarted by their faith or their questions!

Will I fail to meet Him when He shows up and finally answers my prayers? Will I allow the "why" that swirls around my head and heart swallow up hope or faith... or will I say, "but, you are the Son of God and I know that God will do whatever you ask!" Will I trust His faithfulness as a friend even when He doesn't come...
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