Summary: When Christ delays answering our pleas, how shall we respond? God is merciful, even when it appears that Heaven in silent.

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’

“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. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.’ After saying these things, he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’” [1]

Human nature demands immediate answers to the pressures we are compelled to face. We are uncomfortable at the thought that we may be required to wait for God to answer when we have pleaded for His intervention delivering us from whatever crisis we are facing. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that we are prone to demanding an immediate intervention. We live in a world that expects things to happen now. I suppose it is inevitable that we would be disquieted when things don’t move according to our expectation for quick resolutions. In a world with immediate news reports flooding our monitors via the Internet, microwave meals, instant Soda Stream drinks, it is almost impossible not to have expectations of immediate answers to our pleas. Should we be forced to wait on God, we question whether the Lord even loves us!

We don’t relish the thought of being required to endure difficulties. We can’t imagine experiencing opposition, or that we will be called upon to experience pain. We don’t want to hurt; we want a pain-free life with all the pleasures we expect to accompany that pain-free life. We are conditioned by our world to expect that anyone who loves us would be immediately available to help us in time of need.

The problem with this thinking is that we make ourselves the centre of our world. So, we conclude that if God loves us He will be immediately available to bail us out when we are experiencing problems. One major problem with our thinking in this manner is that we begin to imagine that we can dictate how God is to answer. We certainly aren’t prepared to permit ourselves to believe that suffering may lie within the will of God. If we suffer, we begin to think that God is angry with us.

Vast movements within the religious world teach that God will not allow the one with great faith to experience suffering. Grief should not attend our way, according to the theology taught among many religious movements. Consequently, it is a relatively common perception among many Christians that if they are experiencing sorrow, if they are passing through deep waters, then God has deserted them, He has ceased caring for them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the account before us in this message will confirm that sometimes our suffering is for God’s glory.

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