So I have been publishing a few articles concerning suffering and John chapter 11. So far I have write the following.
- Suffering Part 1 – dealt with the definition of suffering
- Suffering Part 2 – dealt with the timing of suffering
- Suffering Part 3 – dealt with the purpose of suffering
- Suffering Part 4 – dealt with applying the purpose of suffering to our lives.
Today I want to move forward in John Chapter 11 to deal with the Response to suffering.
Mary and Martha in John 11:3 send a message to Jesus:
“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
These two ladies struggle with this fact: there brother is sick and not getting well. This must be distressing. A father would be helping his daughters find a husband, and yet we don’t see husbands or a father. So Lazarus is the only man in their lives. Regardless of how you feel about that, you need to appreciate the hurt, distress, and angst that these women struggling under as they send their message to Jesus.
Once Jesus decides to come and raise Lazarus from the dead, he gets close to town, and Martha hears and goes out to meet 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.”
Do you see the two sides of Martha?
Martha is full of doubt. Notice what she says:
- if you had been here my brother would not have died – Martha questions Jesus’ absence. If he had been here death would have been avoided. Why wasn’t Jesus here? I thought you loved Lazarus? I thought you cared for us? I thought you were good? You let him die even though you are life itself.
- but even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you – But will you ask? Will you care enough to do anything now? I am asking, but I am not sure?
Isn’t that like us? Doubt fills our hearts and minds in the middle of suffering, and when it does, we question God’s goodness. We cannot conceive of any reason at all why Jesus would not come and help us in our suffering. Neither could Martha. But that is not the only thing we see in Martha.
- If you had been here my brother would not have died – Jesus I know you are life, I know you are powerful, I know you heal.
- even now I know…God will give you – A glimmer of hope, there is still a chance that my brother will be ok. You can just ask.
Suffering stirs up doubt, but it doesn’t extinguish hope. And this is the “mixed bag” that we are. We are full of doubt and hope. We are full of questions and answers. We trust in one moment while we doubt in the next. We question God’s goodness, but we trust his power. We doubt his care, but we trust his timing. We trust in goodness, but we question his purposes. We are absolutely mixed.
Our problem is this: When suffering comes, it fills our eyesight, and we have trouble seeing anything else. The pain, the problem loom so large, that any purpose of God, or any power or any goodness, gets diminished in our eyes. Then we have nothing but a smoldering hope dowsed with doubt.
Are you this way? Do you have both doubt and trust in you? I believe if you are a Christian you most certainly do have both. And while admitting to ourselves that we doubt God’s goodness, doesn’t feel good, it must be done in order for us to find the healing we need in the midst of our struggles.
Next time we will see how Jesus responds to Martha.