My heart is hurting today. Contentment, peace, and joy seem nowhere to be found as I have felt a fresh blow of the devastating challenges that come with my child’s special needs and the health struggles in each one of my children. Once again, I am reminded that life is not at all as I expected it would be. Pain, fear, exhaustion, and confusion have been unwanted friends for many years now and, while I have seen the grace and sovereignty of Jesus Christ overflow into my life in such faith-stretching ways, there are moments when the grieving of what has been lost comes like a crashing wave upon me.
Oh God, I believe your heart grieves with us in moments like these. I think of when you came to the tomb of Lazarus and wept at the sight of Mary’s tears. You knew the outcome would be life, and yet You were moved by her anguish. While You must know the value and worth that will be found in enduring this struggle, I have to believe that it still grieves You to see us hurting. So although I grieve, I grieve in faith that You are holding my tears and heartache with tenderness and care.
As much as I find comfort in the story of Lazarus, I still can’t ignore that You chose to delay after receiving word of his illness. I would have been tempted to question your goodness in that moment. I am tempted to question it now in my own life. You are Creator, Sustainer, Healer, and Provider; surely it is not too hard for You to reach down Your healing hand on my child. And yet, You have delayed. In fact, You may never bring me the answers I desire on this side of heaven. Therefore, the “answer” I desire must not be where I place my hope.
I am thankful that we are given a birds-eye view of the story of Lazarus. I imagine Mary and Martha may have felt similar to what I have felt lately; confused as to why their Lord was delaying in bringing the healing they knew He could bring. I imagine the confusion, hurt, and questions that must have overwhelmed them.
For this reason John 11:4 has become one of the most encouraging verses to me. “But when Jesus heard it (that Lazarus was ill) he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
This gives me hope even in the darkest moments of my heartache. No, it isn’t a promise to me that my son’s illness will not lead to death or that my greatest earthly fears won’t come to fruition, but it does lift my eyes to the hope that this suffering is not in vain and will lead to greater spiritual life within myself and those impacted by it. It is not a mistake or a punishment; and it is not pointless, hopeless, or a waste. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. I know without a doubt that God ordained this little boy as my child, and that he ordained this illness as part of our lives for as long as he purposes. While I am tempted to feel discouraged and often grieve over the effects it has had, I am not hopeless.
Can you relate? Have you experienced something which has left you feeling confused, shaken, and questioning God’s delays or seemingly unanswered prayer? Believer, though our emotions are often slow to follow, if you are hidden in Christ, you are not hopeless either. It may not be evident now, and it may seem impossible to explain or reason, but Jesus is aware, active, working, and near. “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)”
I am also thankful for the verse that follows John 11:4 because it speaks right into the fear and confusion that must have come with Jesus’ response to Lazarus’ illness. “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. (John 11: 5-6)”
Christ’s love is so perfect and holy that it does not act according to the standards of human love. I find encouragement in the realization that out of Christ’s love for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He delayed in bringing physical healing. He delayed in physical healing in order to bring greater spiritual healing to them and those around them. He took their small lives and used them as part of His greater redeeming story in each one of our lives. He is pouring out that same love on each one of His children. He may be delaying, but He has not forgotten. He may be allowing grief, but only for a greater purpose. Our eternal treasure found in Him is why we have hope.
Even as I write this, I feel my spirit rising in hope and thankfulness. Yes, I still hurt in many ways and am uncertain of what the future holds, but I have confidence that it is worth enduring. So much of what I have grieved losing has driven me to search for something greater than this life can give. It has forced me to let go of what I expected, what I thought I deserved, and what I sought comfort and satisfaction in, instead finding that,
“We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us..So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7,16-18)”
As David sung, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Your hands have made me and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your Word. I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your law is my delight. (Psalm 119:71-77)”
If I could take the pain away from my son and the effects of it on my family, I wouldn’t. Why not? Because if God has purposefully chosen not to, then there is still treasure to be found and purposes to be accomplished. This life is short, but eternity is forever. So we do not lose heart, no matter the circumstances currently surrounding us. For Christ is only allowing what His love has ordained for us with the purpose of transforming our lives into His likeness and displaying his glory through it. “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us and eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7:17-18)”
Though He delay, He will be faithful.
Clinging to Christ,
To read more on the hope we have in suffering, you can purchase “Hope When It Hurts – 30 Biblical Reflections to Help You Grasp God’s Purpose in Your Suffering” authored by Sarah Walton and Kristen Wetherell here or here.