Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
~ John 11:1-6
There are times when I read a story I know so well, and suddenly, I read it again, and have a new understanding.
This is one of those times... literally.
One of the things that so many of us are challenged by is God's timing. It goes back to the old familiar stories of the person who prayed for patience... RIGHT NOW!
I don't want to say that I have "never" asked God for this very thing, but I have learned to be more patient with God before asking. If we could just live everything with a clear picture of what it is like to see the big picture as God sees it.
Jesus delays two more days before returning to his friend, and he dies. Jesus proclaims that the illness was not about death, but that God may be glorified.
Never do we really get the Lazarus side of the experience. The being ill. The dying part. The lying in the tomb awaiting the words of Jesus to "come forth." The life experience of returning to life after death. The times when people may have asked, "Aren't you that dead guy that came back?"
The list can go on and on.
The whole idea of being ill and dying for the sake of the Gospel story doesn't always fare for a "feel good" moment. To think that something bad happened so that something good may emerge is something I struggle with. It's not that Jesus wasn't present... physically. Because I still believe that God is with us always.
It wasn't that Jesus didn't care, for we know at the tomb he "wept."
Even the disciples were a bit concerned with even his decision to return. They were afraid of going back and being stoned again by the people in the community, and they knew they were still present.
I wish I could explain why this time, and like so many other times for other people, that God seems to respond in a "God's timely manner."
While we know that the season of Lent has an end date on the church calendar, and that we will soon be returning to our daily activities, there becomes this clearer understanding that God does not conform to the very thing we live by, and that is time and our sense of urgency.
Oh, there are those stories of God protecting in the lions' den, and those three in the fire. Not to mention a sea opening up so that a group of people could make the final escape from a group. The very day we were born, God sensed the urgency, as the mother senses the need to push to give birth. God's availability is not necessarily based on our urgent plea, it is simply the way that God works. There is no historical Biblical response.
It is our faithfulness that proves the power of each moment, by inviting God to be the sustaining presence, and to be the essence of each breath we take. Being sustained. Being affirmed. Being a child of God.
All of which we are... ALWAYS. Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear God, when I find that I struggle with patience, and waiting for Your answer, help me to be sustained in my faith. Amen.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.