Years ago I had a dream I believed was from God. There was a quiet Holy Spirit whisper.

I trusted Him (I thought).

I worked hard. I asked the right questions. I got the right permissions.

I was affirmed for my gifts in the area of my dream. I won awards.

And then, painfully, my dream was demolished by a series of choices outside my control.

A friend said it was like I walked out into an intersection I had been told was safe and was run over by a mack truck being driven by people I trusted.

I waited expectantly for God to swoop in and fix everything.

But God was silent.

He didn’t right the wrongs. He didn’t correct the injustices. I was left with the death of illusions, trust, and my dream.

Jesus lingered “somewhere else” and didn’t show up in time.

Like in Monday’s post, God didn’t make sense to me.

I think all of us have times when God has seemed inattentive, uncooperative, or late. What do we do when Jesus doesn’t show up and something dies?

Maybe you experience the stages of grief like I did – especially denial, anger, and depression.

But as we process, I think we can learn from Mary, Martha, and Lazarus about life and death.

Their story is in John 11:1-43.

Basically, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are close friends of Jesus. He stays at their house in Bethany when He’s around. I imagine it as a refuge from the busy demands of His ministry.

So Lazarus gets sick, and his sisters send for Jesus, sure that he’ll hustle on over, Him being such a close friend and all.

But no. The text says specifically, “So when He heard Lazarus was sick, he stayed where He was...”

Like because He knows Lazarus needs Him Jesus purposely stays away. And Lazarus dies.

When Jesus finally decides to mosey on over to Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for 4 days. According to tradition, the spirit left the body after 3 days.

As they say in the Princess Bride, “There’s dead and then there’s mostly dead.” Lazarus was more than mostly dead. He was stinking dead (v. 39).

Both Mary and Martha in their own way accuse Jesus with “If only you had been here” !!

But as our friend Mark Batterson says, “Never put a period where God puts a comma.”

Martha puts a comma in verse 22  “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Mary just puts a period (v.32)

Jesus doesn’t explain, but He grieves with them. He isn’t distant.

Jesus enters in even though He knows the end of the story. He weeps, because this is real life and real pain.

And then Jesus brings Lazarus back to life. He resurrects their brother and their dreams, and their hope.

The many scribbles in my Bible show how meaningful this story has been to me. IMG_2935-2

Yes, my dream died and left a deep wound, but God had a different dream. He brought new life in other ways that I could not have manufactured on my own. His purposes prevailed.

Over the years, here are a few of the insights I have taken from the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus:

  • God always always brings new life out of death. It may not be what we thought it would or could be, but it’s what it should be, because it’s from Him.
  • There has to be a death before there is a resurrection. Jesus allows Lazarus to be “really dead” so that it’s clear it is His power at work bringing life.
  • I don’t know who said it, but in my Bible I’ve written “Doubt puts circumstances between you and God. Faith puts God between you and circumstances.”
  • Jesus can.
  • Sometimes He waits.
  • We can trust Him in the meantime.
  • God is more interested in my character than my comfort.
  • God is more committed to His purposes than my specific plans.
  • It’s about a bigger Story than just my little chapter.

When God has seemed inattentive, uncooperative, or late in your life? What have you learned?