Today’s Scripture: John 11
Until his own death, burial, and resurrection, one of Jesus’ greatest miracles was the resurrection of Lazarus. And yet, as much as this scene speaks to Jesus’ divine nature and omnipotence, I find myself amazed at the humanness of this story. There’s a lot to reflect on about how we, as Christians, should respond to suffering and death and about how Jesus views our suffering.
In this chapter, we see Jesus’ human nature on full display as he deals with one of the most universal forms of suffering—the death of a loved one. I love how Verse 3 sets us up for this scene: “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’” (NIV)
Throughout this chapter, it is made very clear that Jesus loved Lazarus, as well as his sisters, Martha and Mary. Despite that, Jesus waited to go to them, prolonging their suffering. Why?
I don’t believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe God can bring great beauty out of great suffering. In this case, God had a plan to bring something good out of Lazarus’ death. As Jesus says in Verse 15, “And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe.”
Not in every situation, but in some, I do believe God allows suffering for the sake of teaching and strengthening those who believe. It wasn’t even the disciples who were suffering the most during this time—surely Lazarus’ sisters carried the heaviest burden—but Jesus allowed them to feel this pain for the sake of his disciples (v.12-14).
When Jesus arrived at Bethany, Martha went to meet him and told him, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 21). Can you imagine greeting Jesus in that way? But Jesus doesn’t scold her—what a powerful reminder that we can be honest with God about how we’re feeling and what we’re struggling with. At the same time, Martha doesn’t lose faith because of her sorrow as can be seen a couple verses later when she confirms, “Yes, Lord… I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God” (v. 27).
Soon after, Jesus finds himself surrounded by people mourning, including Lazarus’ sister, Mary, and the Bible says “a deep anger welled up within him” (v. 33). Why?
I don’t believe Jesus was angry with the people wailing around him. I believe he was angry at death itself, at the pain it wreaked and the life it took. I believe he was angry at the original source of death (sin), at Satan, and at the way God’s creation had been broken. I believe he was angry at the suffering.
Then Jesus wept.
It’s one of the shortest verses of the Bible, and yet in this context it carries such weight. Even knowing the victory he was about to win against death and the boundless victories yet to come, Jesus found it fitting to weep. If an all-knowing, all-powerful God can weep in the face of human suffering, then so can we. Still, we must remember, the stone eventually was rolled away, the battle was won, and despite the pain we face today, victory is yet to come.
How do you respond to suffering? Are you comfortable crying and being honest with God and others about how you feel? How do you think God feels when we are suffering?
The next time you find yourself facing pain and suffering, avoid putting on a happy face and pretending things are okay when they aren’t—especially in your conversations with God. But don’t allow yourself to be overcome by sorrow. Reframe the situation, if possible, in the context of the greater victory ahead and what purposes God may be able to accomplish through this pain.
Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that you are a God who empathizes with our pain and who has experienced what it means to be human. Thank you for never asking us to hide our emotions, but for meeting us where we’re at. Thank you for the hope you offer us through your Son, and for the beauty you can bring out of our pain. Help me to remember that it’s okay to weep in times of suffering, but also to keep my heart fixed on you. May your will be done above all else. Amen.
This post was written by Payton Lechner. Payton is currently the apprentice copywriter at CedarCreek. In her spare time, she freelances as a writer and editor. Besides the English language, Payton loves swimming, cats, and a good cup of tea.
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