God is With You Even in the Hard Times.

This year, lent fell on 26th March 2023. The Gospel scripture is John 11:1-45. Here we read Jesus arrived in Bethany four days after his friend Lazarus had died. He could have gone earlier, but he didn’t. So while he delayed, Lazarus died.

When he arrived in Bethany, Martha went to greet him. When she saw him, she said, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (v. 21). Do you hear the reproach in that? “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

I can’t remember the last time that someone expressed that kind of disappointment in me–my mind has repressed the memory–but I can remember feeling the shame of it. It’s terrible to have someone look you in the eye and tell you how you have disappointed them- to have their say they depended on you, but you let them down.

I can’t remember the last time that happened to me, – maybe as a child- but I can remember wilting under the glare of honest judgment. When that kind of thing happens, you want the earth to open up and swallow you. At least, that is how I felt. I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me.

Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” But instead of wilting under her reproach, Jesus said, Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). That sounds familiar. So our whole world caves in, and a friend, who does not know what to say and is not intelligent enough to keep his mouth shut, says, “It’s God’s will.” Or “Hang in there!” Or “It’ll be O.K.”

When that happens, we want to shout, “My wife just died! Don’t tell me that everything’s going to be all right! It’s not all right, and it’s not going to be all right!”

Martha responded to Jesus’ promise that Lazarus would rise again by saying, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). She might have added, “But what good does that do me now!” Martha could have said, “I know that I will see Lazarus in heaven, but I want him here now!” She could have said, “Jesus, you have been healing strangers. Why couldn’t you do that? You’re your friend Lazarus! Why didn’t you come when we called for you?”

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever wondered why God didn’t help when you were hurting?

Some people say a loving God would never allow good people to suffer. But on the other hand, some Christians say God will always give us what we ask if you have enough faith.

I know Christians who talk about praying for a parking place and getting one–as if that somehow validated God’s love and their faith. They are the same people who will tell you that God will always heal you if you have enough faith.

But that isn’t what the Bible says. Jesus says that God “makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt 5:45). Christians sometimes prosper and sometimes don’t–just like everyone else. It means we cannot expect that life will always be a bed of roses just because we are Christians. Christians get sick, just like everyone else. Christians die, just like everyone else.

That doesn’t mean that there’s no benefit to faith. On the contrary, those of us who have faith have a decided advantage. I believe that God does help us in adversity.

And yet, we must admit that Christians suffer–and Christians die. That is neither an indication that God doesn’t love us–nor that our faith is weak. It’s just a fact of life. We see it in our Gospel lesson. Lazarus is a dear friend of Jesus, and yet he dies. Jesus could have moved more quickly to help him–could have saved him–but he didn’t.

Jesus explained to his disciples that Lazarus’ illness was for God’s glory. That’s significant. We need to hear it. Lazarus’ illness was for God’s glory. What does that mean? It means that Lazarus’ illness and Lazarus’ death–provided an opportunity for people to see the presence of God in their midst–to witness God’s power–to experience .

Jesus finally Shows Up

Jesus came to Bethany four days after Lazarus died. The four days are essential to the story. People believed that the soul resided near the body for three days, hoping to rejoin the body. Finally, on the fourth day, the soul gave up and departed. Four days meant that it was over–there was no hope.

And that means that it would be a resounding miracle if Jesus could bring Lazarus back to life after four days when it had become hopeless. Then, people would give God glory. And that’s what happened.

The tough times in our lives glorify God too. It is one thing to have faith when everything is going right. It is another to have faith when everything is going wrong. Faith amid adversity is a powerful witness. It glorifies God.

Tragedy pushes us through a one-way door, and once we pass through it, we can never return to how life was before.

We can’t go back, no matter how much we ache to do so. All we can do is give thanks for what once was, for the good that was there, the happy times we had, the laughter, love, and the memories we shared.

Then, saying goodbye to those times and those loved ones, we put our hand in the hand of him who gave orbit to the sun, moon, and stars and trust that he has a course for our lives from there.”

But the troubled times in our lives do more than provide an opportunity for us to glorify God. Instead, they provide opportunities for us to become closer to God. Many would never have found God if life had not forced them to their knees.

And our troubled times allow God to redeem us – in others words, bring us back to himself. God does redeem his people. The Bible is one long story of God redeeming his people.

In the case of Lazarus, Jesus raised him from the dead. That was the way that he redeemed that situation. But that was unusual. God doesn’t let many people return from the dead but redeems them.

The promise of the story of Lazarus is not that we will never suffer tragedy. Nor is it that God will never let us die. Nor is it that, once dead, Jesus will give us back our physical life on this earth. Instead, the promise is that God walks with us through all of life–even the hard times–primarily through the hard times–even through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s a promise that God redeems his people.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said The Church is not so much a continuously living thing as something that has survived a thousand crucifixions through a thousand Resurrections.

Believe that promise! Whatever your situation, put your hand in God’s hand and see if it isn’t true. You will survive a thousand crucifixions through a thousand Resurrections.

Thank you for visiting me here; I hope this post was helpful. 

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Virtual hugs, I look forward to your visit to my next blog post! 

Remember to live life on purpose, in Hope. Faith and Love 

Paula Rose Parish💕