Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Four Days Late



"Although He is the infinite God of the universe, your pain causes Him pain, your joy gives Him a lift, your hopes bring excitement to His heart... It's an amazing thought that though the self-existing God needs no one, He has chosen to be so emotionally identified with your ups and downs, your dreams and hopes, that your happiness actually affects His."
 - Chip Ingram, God as He Longs for You to See Him

When I was a kid, I learned a lot of Bible verses.  I had to.  Psalm 119:11 said I needed to.  By the time I was seven, I could easily quote the Romans Road, Psalm 1 and 2, a good portion of Romans 6, and a random selection of verses that everyone teaches kids.  John 3:16.  Romans 8:28.  Genesis 1:1.  I earned little Bible story books for my hard work, and I happily learned my weekly memory verses in exchange for prizes.  But for whatever reason, I delighted in quoting the Bible's shortest verse.  John 11:35.  Jesus wept.  I don't know why I thought it was funny, but just those two little words together seemed almost irreverent.  And since preacher's kids don't get too much of an opportunity to be openly irreverent, I embraced it.  I can quote a verse.  Jesus wept.  And then I would laugh.  I was a weird kid.

I am not seven anymore.  I do not learn new memory verses for prizes, although it might be helpful if I did.  (I started memorizing Colossians this past spring and got stuck when I was 75% done.  I will finish Colossians.  I will.  But maybe prizes would have helped.)  But I also don't laugh about John 11:35.  Because now that I am grown, I know the story surrounding it in a way that I didn't know when I was a child.  I know what it means that Jesus was moved to tears in this situation.  I know how that relates to me now.  


You know the story.  Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick.  He stayed where He was for two whole days.  It doesn't even say He did anything while He was there.  He just stayed.  Then he arrives in Bethany just in time... to see that Lazarus has been dead for four days.  Oh yes.  I have heard the story a hundred times before.  But when I read it in Scripture, I am impressed by a few things.  

First of all, I am always a little surprised that Jesus was in no hurry.  No hurry at all.  He sort of explains that Lazarus will be fine, and then He just stays.  Meanwhile, Mary and Martha are praying and crying and freaking out over in Bethany.  Lazarus is getting worse.  
 His life is fading.  Hope is fading.  And Jesus is just waiting it out.  

Second, I have to point out that after two days, Jesus tells His disciples that Lazarus is dead.  And then He tells them, "for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe".  Having to share the news of a death is no small thing, but Jesus shares it and then basically calls the disciples out on their obvious lack of faith.  You guys should be glad that I wasn't there so that I could convince your faithless selves that I can take care of this.  That's how I read these verses.  


And last, we are back to that tiny little verse.  Jesus wept.  When Jesus arrives to Bethany and meets up with Mary and Martha, there is lots of crying.  Mary was crying.  Martha was crying.  The Jews that were with them were crying.  And then Jesus cries.  Which might seem weird because He knew what was about to happen.  But He wasn't crying because Lazarus was dead.  He was identifying with the pain of the people He loved.  He was crying tears of compassion for His friends. 


These things speak to me.  All three of them.  And there are plenty of other lessons to be learned here, but today these three things are front and center in my thoughts.  Because today, I have problems.  Budget problems, church problems, not-being-pregnant problems.  And for the time being, things are getting worse.  And I am praying and crying and freaking out.  Hope is fading.  And Jesus, He's just waiting it out.  He's taking His time.


I can read these verses with a little bit of imagination, and I can hear God speaking to me the same way He spoke to His disciples.

"for your sake" I am not coming through right this second.
"for your sake" I am taking my time.
"for your sake" I am not moving in your timeline.
"for your sake" I am waiting until you think hope is gone.
So that you may believe.
And that speaks to me.  There is a reason for the wait.  There is a reason for the silence.  There is a reason that answers are not coming today.  He is growing my faith.

And in the meantime, it's okay to cry.  It's okay to feel the sadness that comes with hard things. Jesus identifies with my pain.  My anxiety.  My frustration.  He knows how He will provide.  He knows how he will come through.  He knows that His timing will be perfect.  But if He wept with Mary and Martha in their sadness, I know that He certainly weeps with me in mine.  And even while He has provision and a plan and He knows it will all be okay, He grieves with me over my losses.  He grieves with you over yours.  


He is aware of our needs.  And for your sake and for my sake, He is taking His time.  Provision is coming.  A miracle is coming.  Renewed hope is coming.  Encouragement is coming.  It might feel four days late, but it is on the way.  


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