Wednesday, November 9, 2011

God, why don’t You step in and do something?

Treasured friend,

If you’ve ever had trouble understanding why the loving God you serve with all your heart would wait to answer your prayers—or fail to act on your behalf—then this week’s observations are especially for you.

God, do You see me flailing about in the dark waters, about to drown?
God, have You forgotten that I’m out here?
God, do You care?

How often do we, in any dark night of the soul, whisper prayers of desperation like these? And when it is our loved one suffering, and we know God could help, He could bring healing or comfort or energy or strength or courage or victory, but we feel Him only from afar and then He chooses not to act—it is then especially that we are susceptible to discouragement, to faltering faith, to stumbling into despair.

Oh, my flawed, human heart, how it longs to understand the mysteries of God and yet how blind it is to His real activity, His real purposes that are so much grander, so far superior to what I think ought to be.

Musings like these led me to a familiar passage in the Gospel of John—a passage whose meat I’ve been quick to pass by, instead rushing on to the dessert of the eventual answered prayer. It’s the story of the death of Lazarus. Notice, I said the death and not the raising. For if we skip too soon to the end of the story, we’ll miss a key lesson about the way God works so often in our lives. Or at least that’s what I’d been doing for so long.

As I read, I keyed in on a troubling series of two verses—troubling, because it blows out of the water every preconception I have about how God’s love ought to operate. Check it out in John 11:5-6:

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. (ESV)

In the Greek it’s even stronger. That word we translate as now, actually is a transition word that’s more like “on the contrary.” As in: you might think this sounds contrary to what’s true, but for sure Jesus loved the Lazarus family. And the phrase he stayed is a two-word phrase that means something like he really stayed. As in: you might be incredulous, here, but I assure you it’s true when I tell you he stayed put for two days. (We lose so much in our bland English language!)

Because (really?) Jesus loved these three, He waited far away from them and let events unfold that they found dismaying, grieving, absolutely inconsistent with their previous relationship with Him. How could He do this to them, of all people—they’d fed Him, hosted Him in their home, offered friendship and service and attentiveness. They’d believed in Him. And this was how He repaid them? They sent word to Him in faith believing, and instead, they got a Master who stayed away and let the enemy of death have its say in their lives.

Ouch! I feel their pain, don’t you? It may be the enemy of death or unemployment or financial worries or health concerns or pained relationships. Whatever it is in your life, you may just be in a season when the Master isn’t doing anything to resolve it.

Or … so it seems.

But scoot back one verse, and He actually explains that this is going to happen and why this is going to happen (before it does!) I like the way the NASB renders Jesus’ pre-explanation: “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it” (John 11:4).

Anyone who was truly listening to the Master would have heard that the end of the matter wasn’t what it seemed. There was a higher purpose involved here, one of ultimate intent—one that would do what God deems so important—show His hand at work, bring glory to Himself, and draw hearts to trust Him. (Don’t believe me? Skip down to v. 45: “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”

So, my grieving, exhausted, in-need-of-reassurance friend, God loves you. And it may be that because of that love, He’s working behind the scenes on your behalf—on a project that will not only bring ultimate good to you, but ultimate glory to Him.

Take comfort, treasured one, in the knowledge that just because you don’t feel Him near, God isn’t at all surprised or unwilling to act on your behalf. He’ll do it—His way, in His time. I see it in the story of Lazarus and his sisters—and I’ve seen it in obvious evidence recently in my own situation. Take it from Lazarus and Martha and Mary, take it from the apostle John—and if you must, take it from me—because He loves you, He will intervene on your behalf. Hang on with all that’s in you until He does.

Blessings and prayers,


© 2011, Julie-Allyson Ieron. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, email:

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