Never measure Jesus’s love by circumstances. Trust Him even more than ever when all hope seems gone.
“Without the transplant, you probably have twelve to eighteen months to live.” I could not believe the doctor’s words as he gave my husband his prognosis. Why would God allow us to travel to Duke Medical Center, three hours from our home, only to give us an answer we never expected to hear? We thought this trip would be the day we received good news, not to hear that the leukemia had progressed. We thought this would be the miracle we prayed for. We thought that on this day, our loving and merciful heavenly Father would come through, and we would give Him all the glory. Jesus, don’t You care?
Perhaps you’ve been there. A doctor gives you the incredibly bad news, and the shock leaves you speechless. Your mind races while trying to think of the next question to ask. Perhaps you lose a husband, child, or parent, and you can’t believe a loving God would allow this. Maybe, you lose your home and all your earthly treasures to a fire, flood, or hurricane.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you know that Jesus often allows the unthinkable to happen. The thing that happens to someone else is now happening to you. You don’t want to question God, but you have unanswered questions. Why? Why now? We thought You loved us, Jesus. We thought you had plans for us, to give us a future and a hope. This is not what we expected.
Suffering plays an important part in the Christian life, but it still catches us off-guard. It still leaves us wondering and feeling out of control. We never had control, but like a cold splash of water in the face, the truth awakens us to that reality.
“The One You Love Is Sick.”
The sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus, was sick (John 11:3 NIV). John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wants us to know that Jesus loves this family. Jesus had spent time in their home, as Martha cooked for Him, and Mary sat at His feet absorbing everything He said. Mary also anointed the feet of Jesus with her most precious perfume and wiped His feet with her hair worshipping her Messiah. Except for the disciples, the Bible speaks of Jesus spending more time with this family in Bethany than any other group of people.
Since Jesus loved them so much and spent so much time with them, Mary and Martha sent a messenger to Jesus, fully expecting Him to rush to Bethany and heal His friend, Lazarus. Mary and Martha knew where to send the messenger, and they had high expectations that Jesus would rush to their aid.
Today, we depend on prayer instead of messengers. We come to the throne room and seek help in our time of need. Jesus’s presence is everywhere, but waiting is still part of prayer.
Here is the passage that doesn’t make sense:
"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where He was two more days..." (John 11:5-6 NIV)
Jesus loves them, but He delays? No, it should say He hastened to heal his friend, Lazarus. That’s what the sisters expected, and that’s what we expect Jesus to do in our lives also.
Lazarus died, and the sisters mourned, but Jesus still didn’t show up. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, and He has allowed things in our lives that shake our faith.
Later, Jesus goes to Bethany: "After four days, Jesus arrived in Bethany. Martha went out to meet Jesus, and in typical Martha fashion, she made the bold statement, “Lord… if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21 NIV).
Martha trusted Jesus with complete confidence. She never doubted like we are prone to do. Yet, Jesus let her down, or did He? Has Jesus ever disappointed you? Do those disappointments fuel doubt? Mary and Martha believed Jesus would come to Bethany as soon as possible and heal Lazarus. Do we have their kind of faith, or do we lack faith because we’ve been let down?
Martha’s next comment demonstrates that her faith hadn’t waivered when she said:
“But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:22 NIV)
This sends Martha and Jesus into a discussion on theology, and Jesus told her that He is the resurrection. He asked Martha if she believed that, and she affirmed that she truly did, but Martha had no idea where this conversation was leading.
Then Mary, usually quiet and always hanging on the words of Jesus, found Jesus, and she fell at His feet where she had sat so many times. Mary boldly declared the same words Martha had spoken:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:32b NIV)
These sisters felt traumatized. Not only did they grieve their brother, but the One person who could have made a difference seemed to have let them down.
These sisters believed in Jesus. They never doubted Him as Messiah, but now, He had disappointed them.
Has Jesus ever disappointed you?
Friend, has He allowed the unthinkable to happen? Has He let you down? Do you doubt His love because of what He didn’t do?
Mary and Martha have a happy ending. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and God was glorified. What seemed to be a major disappointment turned out to be something Mary and Martha could never have imagined. Yes, it appeared heartbreaking, but it turned out to be glorious.
Three days after my husband was given His death sentence, we learned about a clinical trial for a drug that was putting people with leukemia into remission. Jesus opened the door for my husband to get on a trial and healed him through this experimental drug.
Not everyone's story will have a happy ending. Sometimes, we continue wondering why a loving Savior would allow certain things, but we must trust Him. His ways are not our ways. Many times, He does have something better, something unexpected, in store for us. We have to look for that silver lining in our suffering.
Jesus Loves You
Friend, don’t doubt the love of Jesus Christ. He loved us so much that He came to earth, leaving the glories of heaven, to hang on a cross and die a cruel death for us. The suffering Jesus endured far surpasses anything we have or ever will experience.
"In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:4 NIV)
How do you handle disappointments? Do you feel it was unkind to allow Mary and Martha to grieve before resurrecting Lazarus? Mary and Martha exemplified bold faith before the death and resurrection of their brother. It seems this miracle strengthened their faith. Has suffering ever increased your faith?
I don’t know if you are in the midst of a trial right now, but I do know Jesus loves you with an incredible love. Never measure Jesus’s love by circumstances. Trust Him even more than ever when all hope seems gone. We may draw closer to Jesus during our suffering, even when no happy ending occurs.
Many people allow life’s disappointments to chip away at their faith, but look at Mary and Martha. Even in grief, they trusted Jesus. That’s what we must do.
Keep trusting the Lord, especially when life doesn’t make sense, and never doubt His unfailing love for you. You can do this, my friend.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/AntonioGuillem
Carolyn Dale Newell is an author and certified speaker. She knows what it is to live with blindness, but she calls her disability a gift from God. Her passion is to equip women to break free from emotional strongholds through her book, Faith That Walks on Water: Conquering Emotional Bondage with the Armor of God. You can connect with Carolyn on her website and her women’s ministry group on Facebook.