He is Perfect in All of His Ways

2 Mar

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Both Martha and Mary said this same thing to Jesus, separately, when they first saw him after their younger brother, Lazarus, had died from sickness. That kind of response comes from a heart that has been dwelling on the questions, “Why doesn’t Jesus do something about this? Why hasn’t He come? Why hasn’t He healed?” It is at once a statement of belief – in Jesus’ power – and unbelief – in Jesus’ willingness. He didn’t intervene. He withheld healing. He was absent in their time of greatest need.

According to the story recorded in John 11, the sisters had sent for Jesus, the miracle worker, after Lazarus became sick. “Lord, he whom you love is ill,” the messenger said. Surely they expected that Jesus would drop everything and race the 65 miles to Bethany to save his good friend.

But Lazarus got sicker and sicker. No sign of Jesus. As residents of a community that housed sick people, Mary and Martha were probably well acquainted with the process of dying. Lazarus didn’t have long left. Still no Jesus. Where is He? Why hasn’t He come and healed his friend, our brother? Doesn’t He love us?

Then, the unthinkable happened. Lazarus died. The finality of death settled in. Even if Jesus still came, it was too late. Burial preparations were made. Lazarus’ body was carried out of the house. Loved ones and Jews from Bethany and nearby Jerusalem filled the house and village, all mourning the death of this beloved young man.

But Jesus was nowhere to be found.

*******

Meanwhile, Jesus had also been in a town called Bethany, the one across the Jordan, where John the Baptist had first started baptizing. “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.”

Jesus’ reaction to the news of Lazarus being sick is the exact opposite of what we would expect, of what Mary and Martha expected. He didn’t rush to be with Lazarus. He stayed where He was. For TWO days. As Jesus and His disciples were preparing for their journey to Bethany outside of Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe…”

*******

Lazarus had been dead and in the tomb for four days, four of the longest days of Mary and Martha’s life, when they finally heard the word. “Jesus is coming.” Martha hurried to meet Jesus outside of the village, but Mary stayed at home.

“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,” Martha said.

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus replied.

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

“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?” Jesus said.

“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world,” Martha replied.

Martha went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” When Mary heard this, she rose quickly and went out to meet Jesus in the same spot Martha had met Him.

She fell at Jesus’ feet, weeping, and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Overcome by emotion from seeing Mary and a crowd of fellow Jews weeping, Jesus choked back tears and said, “Where have you laid him?”

A few Jews motioned and said, “Lord, come and see,” but Jesus didn’t follow. Instead, “He lifted His face to heaven and wept. Tears flooded His eyes and spilled onto His cheeks, and though He stood strong, His shoulder set, His body shook with sobs. … The sobs washed over their friend and Savior. He cared. He cared more than Martha ever imagined. He wasn’t just busy and callous. He loved Lazarus like He loved Martha and Mary and the other people of Bethany. And this—the death of Lazarus—grieved Jesus in a way they had not seen before. The pain and loss of death broke His heart.”1

“See how he loved him!”

And yet, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

*******

Jesus wiped His face with His hands and followed the crowd, Mary, and Martha to the tomb where they had laid Lazarus.

“Take away the stone,” Jesus said.

Looks of surprise and uncertainty showed on the faces in the crowd. “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days,” Martha said quietly to Him.

“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Jesus said to her.

Martha nodded, and motioned for the stone to be removed. After it had been rolled away, Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven and spoke loudly for the crowd to hear, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Then, even louder, Jesus called, “Lazarus, come out!”

A person emerged from the tomb, bound in graveclothes. Could it be? At Jesus’ prompting, they removed the linen cloths and behold, it was Lazarus, whole and healthy and ALIVE.


Over the past few months of watching my mom battle ovarian cancer, I have found great comfort in this story. I have seen in my own heart the questions of Mary and Martha: Where is Jesus in this? Why hasn’t He answered our prayers for healing?

I have also, like Mary and Martha, experienced the sorrow and heartache of what it feels like when the battle for life is lost: my beloved mother Sheri passed away at 12:12 a.m. on Friday, February 12, 2016. She was able to stay at home and die peacefully, thanks to my loving father, hospice care and modern medicine, and is now cancer-free in heaven, celebrating her new life, face to face with Jesus.

I like to think of her in heaven as she looked in her 20s and 30s – actually, very similar to how I look now. I find comfort in knowing that she now knows the answers to all the questions she had about heaven before she died—because she’s there. I like to think that she knows more about the reasons why God chose her story here on earth to end at age 62, and that she praises His love and wisdom in doing so.

Because that is the ONLY thing that brings me comfort in this time of sorrow: that God’s way are perfect. That my mom’s death from cancer isn’t simply the result of living in a fallen world, but that it has a purpose, that God will use it to accomplish His purposes.

Jesus showed that He had a purpose in the situation with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Because of His love for them, because of His love for His disciples, He let this horrific tragedy happen. He used it to show them His glory, to prove that He had been sent by the Father, and to demonstrate that He has complete control over life and death. If He says that He wins in the end, HE WILL WIN. “Take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Like John Piper says, “We do not lose heart because every single moment of our affliction in the path of obedience — whether from sickness or slander — fallen nature or fallen people — all of it is meaningful. That is, all of it — unseen to our eyes —is producing something, preparing something, for us in eternity. Verse 17: ‘This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.’ …Every moment of your affliction is meaningful. It has meaning. It is doing something. Causing something. Bringing about something glorious. You can’t see this. The world can’t see this. They think, and you are tempted to think, this suffering is meaningless. It’s not doing anything good. I can’t see any good coming out of this. That’s what you feel if you focus on the seen. To which Paul responds, look to the things that are unseen. The promise of God. Nothing in your pain is meaningless. It is all preparing. Working something. Producing something — a weight of glory, a special glory for you. Just for you because of that pain.”

I don’t know why things have to be this way, why God didn’t heal my mom. But I do believe that God does not cause suffering or pain unnecessarily. He is doing something here. There is a greater glory—His glory—to be revealed through this.

I’ve been listening to Chris Tomlin’s song “Good Good Father” on repeat lately. The words speak comfort to my soul:

 

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like

But I’ve heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night

And you tell me that you’re pleased

And that I’m never alone

 

You’re a good, good Father

It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are

And I’m loved by You

It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

 

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide

But I know we’re all searching

For answers only you provide

Cause you know just what we need

Before we say a word

 

You are perfect in all of your ways

You are perfect in all of your ways

You are perfect in all of your ways

 

Oh, it’s love so undeniable

I, I can hardly speak

Peace so unexplainable

I, I can hardly think

 

As you call me deeper still [x3]

Into love, love, love

 

God is a good, good Father. I am loved by Him. He is perfect in all of His ways.

1 From The Friends of Jesus by Karen Kingsbury

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