As much as we wish it were otherwise, life has no easy answers to our struggles. Oh, I know, I know . . . God is the Answer. But what happens when the Answer doesn’t answer?
Because God can stop our pain, we think He should. So we pray. And pray.
But nothing happens.
That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.
From what happened next, I see 3 lessons to help us understand why Jesus waits to answer our prayer.
Not long ago, my body gave me a little gift. I awoke suddenly one night with a smarting pain in the body. No matter how I fidgeted and adjusted, the hurt in my lower back only intensified.
The best way I can describe the discomfort compares to having a doctor insert a three-inch hypodermic needle just to the left of the spine, exactly where the kidney sits. Occasionally, just for fun, the doc then twists the needle in a slow, clockwise motion.
The pain literally nauseated me.
Never before had I experienced such an inescapable ache.
The most frightful part was I had no idea what was happening.
Any woman who has experienced childbirth understands it. Any helpless man who has witnessed childbirth, like me (twice), understands it to a degree. That’s why the Bible uses the experience of childbirth as a metaphor of our lives.
The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves . . . groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. —Romans 8:22–23
We would all love to have an emotional epidural to where we didn’t feel the pain of life. But that won’t happen.
God doesn’t give us a way to avoid the hurt.
But He does tell us what to think so we can make it through the struggle.
I’ll never forget the day when one of my daughters learned to ride her bike without training wheels. (The “fall” was an appropriate season for this event.)
As she sped down a hill toward a huge ravine, I saw written all over her face the message: “I’m not in control!”
(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)
As she raced by me, I reached out and lifted her off the bike—saving her from the ravine but causing her to fall. As the bike launched into the abyss, my rescued daughter hopped up hotter than a hornet!
“Why did you do that, Daddy?!” To answer, I simply pointed to the bottomless gorge I saved her from. But that didn’t matter. All she could see was that I caused her to fall.
Years later, I pondered how we can carry this same attitude into our relationship with God.
Sometimes it feels like God takes way too long. He could stop all the pain and confusion in a moment. He could meet the need. But He doesn’t.
Waiting on God is often confusing. He has operated this way for a long time.
When Mary and Martha of Bethany sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick, Jesus stayed right where He was. When He finally did arrive, He found that Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus took His sweet time showing up.
Why does He do this?
2 Peter 2:3-9; 3:3-13
The problem goes like this: “If God was all-powerful, He could get rid of evil. If God was all-loving, He would get rid of evil. So since we have evil in the world, God must either be apathetic or absent.”
The Apostle Peter—almost as if writing for this very topic—teaches us that the problem of evil in the world stems from the problem of evil within our own hearts. God allows evil so that we may choose good . . . and one day God will permanently remove all evil.
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Having failed God, the nation Israel is pictured as a valley of dry bones. Beyond hope. However, for God’s own glory, He will one day bring the bones to new life through the gift of His Spirit. A similar renewal is available today for those hurting from skeletons in their heart’s closet.
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