Yesterday I shared three thoughts from John 11 relating to the grief of losing my mum to cancer 23 years ago (you can read it here), here's the 4th reason...
4. God is working his purposes out
Have you ever had an injection? Sometimes they can be a bit painful. I remember the BCG, and of course getting it done as a teenage boy meant that you had the added pain of your 'friends' thumping you on it! But we all had the injection, partly because there was no choice, but also because we knew it did us some good - namely, preventing TB. If we with our finite minds can understand that, how much more can God with his infinite mind bring good out of suffering? It may be hard for us to understand when we are in the midst of the trials, and I have found the best place to turn for reassurance is the cross of Christ and HIs resurrection.
When my mum died I struggled with the question "how can a loving God allow this"? Years later when I understood that God had loved us so much that He gave His Son to die on the cross for all the times that we had rejected His rule over us, I could no longer question His love. And, when I understood that Jesus had really risen physically from the dead, I could no longer question his power. So I had to reinterpret my circumstances in the light of the cross. Again, Tim Keller puts it helpfully:
"I am going to judge my circumstances by Jesus' love...not Jesus' love by my circumstances."
For Lazarus and his sisters, they must have been wondering, how can Jesus love us? Surely if he loved us he would have come straight away when we called him? Have you ever thought the same thing: why God have you not answered my prayer straight away?! Thankfully John 11 tells us that the reason why Jesus didn't come straight away wasn't because He didn't love them, we are told in v3 and v5 that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha and Mary. In fact we are told in v6 that the very reason for His delay was because he loved them!
How can his delay show his love? What can have been more important? This was life and death!
It seems that the something more important was because Jesus wanted others to believe (v15) and this seemingly was the result (v45). Well that was for the benefit of others, what about Lazarus, Mary, Martha? Well, I imagine that the three of them had their faith in the life giving Son of God strengthened by the whole experience! Perhaps Jesus allowed them to go through the pain of death, so that they could have a stronger faith and greater confidence in Him? What about us? Well if Jesus had healed Lazarus straight away, we wouldn't have John 11v25 in our Bibles! A verse that has brought comfort to countless numbers at Christian funerals. And we can know that God is working His loving purposes out even when we don't fully understand.
As I remember 23 years ago, I am still saddened at my mum losing her fight with cancer, over those years I have come to understand some of God's purposes, I may not know all the answers, but I trust Him as I wait.