How many of us have prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into our hearts because we wanted to avoid hell… or we wanted to have a better life… or we wanted to not be lonely anymore? I think these are valid, good reasons for wanting to follow Jesus. But they can’t be our only reasons. We can’t assume that “becoming a Christian” is going to solve all our problems. Because quite honestly, Jesus’ main concern is not that we are problem-free, healthy, rich, or even happy.
I’m really wrestling with why God allows us to suffer. Why He allows us to experience painful things. Why crappy things happen to us–whether they’re the result of our own poor choices or someone else’s. Or whether crappy things happen because that’s life and just the way things go sometimes. But I don’t find peace with those lines of thinking… and the remaining option doesn’t always sit well either: Maybe God not only allows me to go through suffering; maybe He even makes it happen.
Holy cow. Is it ok to say that?
Today my pastor taught out of John 11. The story of Lazarus and Jesus’ calling him back from the dead. One of my favorite accounts in the Bible. Jesus heard that one of His dearest friends was lying on his deathbed. “So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:6, ESV). Jesus purposely allowed Lazarus to die. He purposely put off going to be with Lazarus’s family, whom He cared about deeply. “Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him’” (John 11:14-15, ESV).
Wait a minute. Jesus was GLAD He wasn’t there. He was rejoicing that He hadn’t been there to stop Lazarus from dying. He was happy that He hadn’t healed him from afar. Can you imagine how backwards this must have sounded to the disciples? It sounds a little harsh, right?
But of course Jesus knew the full story. He knew the way things were going to end. It would have been nothing for Him to have simply said the word and Lazarus be healed; He had done it before. But Jesus knew that by foregoing one miracle He was choosing an even greater miracle.
At Lazarus’s tomb Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, ESV)
Jesus doesn’t always behave the way we might want Him to, does He? But do we trust Him that whatever He does, it is good and perfect, it’s for His glory, and it’s what’s best for us?
Truthfully, Jesus might wreck your life. He has completely upended mine… on more than one occasion, and quite honestly sometimes it stinks. But will I trust Him to the end? Will I trust that even in the face of death He is working a greater miracle than I can imagine?
So if His priority isn’t our comfort, what is it? He is interested in the condition of our hearts and whether we really, truly trust Him.
How much do I trust God? My heart is so fickle. In some areas of my life I trust Him without question, but in others it is painfully clear that I don’t trust Him nearly as much as I thought I did, if at all. I worship a God who is holy, just, and perfect, but who isn’t “safe” or bound by my ideas of what my life (or anyone else’s) should look like. I’ve seen Him do things in this life that make no sense. Sometimes later down the road I can see His hand and how it all works together… but many times I just can’t find the silver lining. Who is this God who allows gut-wrenching, life-altering suffering?
I guess we will see.
But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Job 23:10 (NASB)