Wednesday was not my prettiest day.
I’m not sure how to describe how I was feeling. Forlorn is about right. Discouraged, sad, disappointed and disillusioned would work, too.
In the afternoon, I went out to run errands. I was headed to the post office, where I knew there’d be a long line. I was wishing I had brought a book to read, other than the Bible (which is on my phone).
I then told God I didn’t want to read the Bible while I waited in line because I was annoyed at the current state of affairs. I was feeling frantic and inconsolable about the way He was allowing things to play out.
Basically, I was pouting and doubting.
Then He spoke.
Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?
My breath caught.
I knew exactly the story where Jesus spoke these words. It’s one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I’ve taught from this story on numerous occasions, within diverse contexts.
It’s the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
Jesus came to Judea where Lazarus had died and had been laid in a tomb. Mary and Martha were with Him at the tomb (John 11).
“Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Martha, who moments earlier had said to Jesus with such faith, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
When the time came to put that faith into action, she hesitated.
Jesus’ reply is recorded in the verse above that came to my heart:
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Martha was being given an opportunity to believe.
An opportunity is just an opportunity. In every opportunity, there is choice.
Martha was given an opportunity to choose to believe, or choose not to believe. She could choose to believe that God is true to His Word, that He is who He says He is, and He will do what He has said He will do. Or she could choose to remain in confusion and despair and doubt.
We have the same opportunity.
How will we respond when God invites us to roll away the stone?
God, do You really want to open that door?
I think this is my response at times.
Because it’s cold and it’s dark and that’s where I keep my pain. That’s where I hide away the stuff I don’t want the world (or You) to see. The pain, the fear, the junk I hold on to – it’s been in there so long that it’s starting to rot. It’s so bad, God, that it has even started to smell in there. If You open that door, God: well, it’s not going to be pretty and it’s not going to be nice.
Since when was God’s power constrained by ugliness? The stench doesn’t bother Him. And He doesn’t care if it’s pretty or nice. Pretty and nice don’t encapsulate His objectives.
He wants to do something beautiful.
Can you imagine if Jesus had said, “Oh, Martha, you think it might smell in there? Maybe you’re right. We should keep it closed. I’ve always had a weak stomach.”
Not our Savior. Not the One who endured the ugliness of the cross.
And out of that ugliness, God did something beautiful.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
When Lazarus came out of the tomb, his head, feet and hands still bound with grave clothes, Jesus said to those gathered, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
I imagine the people looked at Lazarus as one who was dead. Jesus saw past the grave clothes and saw one who was becoming alive.
Oh, how often I view my trials like this. I only see the death, the dreariness, the heartache and hopelessness.
Is this, too, how the disciples felt, as they watched Jesus take His last breath on the cross? As He declared, “It is finished,” and gave His spirit up to the One who sent Him?
Where had hope gone?
We are so short-sighted. Without death, we cannot fully appreciate life.
Sometimes, it’s us who have to die. Little by little, we have to lose our lives only to fully live.Where we see emptiness, hopelessness, death, Jesus looks at the same thing and simply sees its potential for life.
“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).” (John 10:10b AMP)
Oh, Lord, forgive my unbelieving heart. I want to see your glory in this opportunity to believe. Be magnified in my eyes and in my heart. Empower me to fully trust in You in this moment. You are able.