“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
I had planned for the content of this post to be about the sweetness of singleness. I still plan to write about that at a future date. But I felt God stirring something different in me this week.
Today my reading led me to John chapter 11. This is the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Don’t you love how God seems to speak the same thing over and over to us until we finally hear him? Last night, John 11 was also text of my devotional that I read from the missionary to India, Amy Charmichael.
The story of Lazarus is familiar to me but it took on new meaning as I related in a fresh way to the Bible character, Martha. She was the first one to rush out and greet Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, Lazarus would never have died.”
This is often echoed in my response. “God, if you would have been here, things would have been different.” I love that Martha didn’t hide her frustration and pain from her friend, Jesus. While Martha was raw with her, dare I say, anger with Jesus, she still believed in Him. We can see in her response that she knew that Lazarus would be raised on the last day. She believed in Jesus. But she didn’t get it. She didn’t understand what Jesus was doing in that very dark moment. She didn’t understand why Jesus had delayed. “Why? Why? Why did you wait?”
I suck my breath in sharply. I am Martha. I believe in Jesus and yet my response is, “Why are you waiting, Lord? Where were you when I really needed you?”
When the people mourning over the death of Lazarus go out to the tomb, again I see myself in Martha. Jesus tells them to take away the stone covering the tomb. Martha says, “Hmmm, Lord, are you crazy? His body has been decomposing in there. It is going to smell really bad. I don’t think you want us to do that.” She is telling GOD that He hasn’t thought this one through. She believes He is the Son of God and she is filling HIM in on the situation. “Hmmm, excuse me, Creator of all things, King of Kings, and God of the universe, I don’t think you know what you are doing in this situation.” It is beyond ridiculous. This is the kind of ridiculous that I am.
The story continues and Jesus tells her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So, they roll back the stone. I wonder, even as they were being obedient to roll the stone away, if some were covering their noses, preparing for the stench. But then, and this part always gives me chills, Jesus shouts out, “Lazarus, come out!” He didn’t do some crazy incantation or dance around in circles. He simple shouted, “Come out here!”
Why? Why? The answer is WHO Jesus is. Oh, my little Martha heart. I believe and yet I have so very much to learn.
Like Martha, it is hard for me, Lord. I hear what you are saying. But I am having trouble seeing beyond what I am seeing. What are you calling to life in me today, Lord? What are you ‘raising up’ in my life? You have been so gracious and kind to me, just like you were to Martha. Godly waiting is still so very mysterious to me but I am learning to trust your timing and your incredible love.
What would you speak to me, Lord? Like you spoke to Martha, I feel you saying, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
To my fellow Martha hearts, hear what God would speak to you, “Set your mind on me and let me call forth LIFE to the dead parts of your heart. The areas that you have allowed to become numb and silent are where I am calling out to you like I did to Lazarus in the grave, ‘Come out.’ Even now, I am in the garden of you heart and I am breathing life into the still soil. Such sweet aroma and such pleasing color are these specific flowers that I have planted in you. You are such a delight. I see the things you carry. It does not go unnoticed. Let me swing you up into my arms and carry you. Rest your weary head against my shoulder. Let my love wash over you so that you may be freed up to enjoy life and life abundantly.”
Some of the above is an old journal excerpt, but these same thoughts have been stirring in me as I have been praying over cfLIVE community and each of our lives in this moment of time. I know that many of you are carrying heavy burdens of all different sorts. But there are few burdens heavier than bitterness. Be encouraged by the story of Martha and Lazarus. Like Martha, cast your anger on the Lord because He can hold it and His response is tender love. And Like Lazarus, may you be called to new and renewed life by the voice of your savior!
“I prayed for strength, and then I lost awhile
All sense of nearness, human and divine;
The love I leaned on failed and pierced my heart,
The hands I clung to loosed themselves from mine;
But while I swayed, weak, trembling, and alone,
The everlasting arms upheld my own.
I prayed for light; the sun went down in clouds,
The moon was darkened by a misty doubt,
The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears,
And all my little candle flames burned out;
But while I sat in shadow, wrapped in night,
The face of Christ made all the darkness bright.
I prayed for peace, and dreamed of restful ease,
A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose;
Above my head the skies were black with storm,
And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes;
But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew,
I heard His voice and Perfect peace I knew.
I thank Thee, Lord, Thou wert too wise to heed
My feeble prayers, and answer as I sought,
Since these rich gifts Thy bounty has bestowed
Have brought me more than all I asked or thought;
Giver of good, so answer each request
With Thine own giving, better than my best.”
–Annie Johnson Flint