“But when Jesus heard about it he said, ‘Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.’ So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days. Finally, he said to his disciples, ‘Let’s go back to Judea.’” John 11:4-7 NLT (emphasis added)
I’m a pretty patient person…at least I like to think so, but one thing about me is I really like a quick response. Whether it’s a text, an email or a prayer, I like to know it’s been received and I like acknowledgement—preferably in the form of a speedy response. Basically, that means that I’m a refresh-every-five-minutes, obsessive-package-tracking, online shopper. Whether it’s a book that I’ve found at a discount on Amazon or a birthday gift that I’ve been saving up for, once I place that two-day shipping order, I keep checking for delivery info and tracking it until it reaches my front door! Oftentimes, I find that in other areas of my life, my desire for a quick turnaround looks a lot like this, too. That miracle? I want it immediately. That provision? I’d like it now, please. The trouble is, sometimes things don’t come as soon as we order them. Sometimes, instead of “showing up” right away, Jesus waits.
In this passage, we see Mary and Martha in desperate need of a miracle for their brother and they needed it quick, fast and in a hurry, but the Bible says that Jesus stayed where he was. More than that, it says, “although he loved them,” he waited.
As I read these verses, I’m struck by the idea of Jesus waiting or staying although he loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus. I think about my own life and the things I’ve been praying for. Things that I’ve cried out to God about, hoping for him to show up in it quickly. How many times do those things reach what seems like the breaking point or the point of no return? That moment when we know the thing that we love, the thing that we so desperately wanted healing for reaches the point of certain and definitive death.
I have moments like that every now and again. When things don’t quite go as planned and I feel like the dream is dying right before my eyes. Moments when the things God has spoken over my life and some of the things in my heart seem so far away. Being in my early thirties, there’s still so much that hasn’t yet happened. I remember on one occasion telling God how I felt about it. I know he loves me, but why hasn’t he shown up yet? Though I didn’t say it out loud, my innermost thought was, God is holding out on me. Mid-prayer/pity-party, God interrupts me to say, “I’m not holding out on you. I make everything beautiful in my time.” I recall verse 15 of this chapter, when Jesus says that he’s glad for the sake of the disciples that he didn’t get to Lazarus sooner, so that they would believe. You see, Jesus was using what seemed like a delay as a teaching moment—as a faith-growing moment.
Sometimes we get caught up in our own plans, thinking that our timing is best. When things don’t go according to our schedules, it hurts, we grieve. Often, we look for the “why” in our pain. Why didn’t God do the thing we “needed” him to do? Why hasn’t he shown up yet? Doesn’t he know we need him, now? We forget that even though sometimes things don’t go as planned, that doesn’t mean they went wrong. In verse 21 of this passage, Martha tells Jesus, “If only you would have been here, my brother would not have died.” But Jesus says to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Friends, I believe Jesus waited because he had a bigger plan and there was a greater purpose to come out of the situation and this required him to stay and wait. His timing was perfect, even though to Mary, Martha and Lazarus, it seemed late. Much too late. However, his timing provided the platform for one of the most memorable miracles ever and it grew the faith of those who heard and saw. At the end of this story, many saw what Jesus had done and were saved—very likely, many more than if Jesus had shown up and healed Lazarus sooner.
I just want to encourage you to know and hold fast to the fact that God loves us; when it seems like he’s waiting and when he’s staying his hand in those moments where we want him to act now, even then, the waiting is done with love and purpose. God doesn’t want to see us in pain–he’s our Father, but because he sees the bigger picture, his timing is always perfect. No tear is wasted, no heartache will go unredeemed. There’s no dead thing he can’t bring back to life. He will reach more people in his timing through your story than you could ever imagine. Trust that the wait is worth it, the growth in your faith is worth it and trust that in the end, it will be beautiful.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT)
What are some areas in your life that you’ve prayed for God to show up in that you are still waiting on a miracle for? Take some time this week to pray over one or two of those areas in your life and ask the Holy Spirit to help you release them and to help grow your faith through the waiting process—trusting that regardless of what it looks like now, his timing will be perfect.