Hope. That sometimes elusive, always essential, element of human life. I’ve heard it said that we can live for weeks without food, days without water, and minutes without air—but we can’t live a second without hope.
Yet life is unpredictable. It is filled with situations that we simply cannot control. Hardships of every shape and size — sickness, unemployment, broken relationships, betrayal, divorce, wayward children, addiction — even death. Despite our very best efforts to hold on, at one time or another, most of us have seen the unthinkable happen and have watched our hopes slip away and die.
Many years ago that very thing happened to a little family—two sisters and a brother—living in the town of Bethany. Their story is found in the eleventh chapter of the Gospel of John.
This family knew Jesus well—He was a frequent guest in their home. They had obviously heard of His miracles, and had no doubt seen many first-hand. But notice that their close relationship with Jesus did not insulate them from personal tragedy.
One day the brother, Lazarus, became extremely ill. The sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” They knew Jesus loved them, and they believed—they hoped—He would come to heal Lazarus. Instead He responded in a way that to our human sensibilities seems a bit shocking. If you cut to the chase, you can basically sum up verses 5 and 6 by saying that Jesus loved them … so He stayed away. What? He stayed away. And while He stayed away—Lazarus died.
So did the family’s hope.
Then, after it seemed far too late to do any good at all, Jesus showed up. Although their manner was different, both sisters said exactly the same thing to Jesus when they saw Him. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” How often do we say that same thing? “Lord, if You had been here, my world wouldn’t have fallen apart.” “Lord, if You had been here, I wouldn’t be in this financial mess.” “Lord if you had been here, my husband wouldn’t have left me.” Just fill in the blanks for your own situation. When things don’t go the way we think they should, we cry out, “God, where were You—why didn’t you come?”
Yet sometimes He doesn’t come—because He loves us.
There are times it may look and feel as though God is indifferent to our needs and unaware of our suffering. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, when we grieve, so does He. When Jesus went to the gravesite with Mary and Martha, He wept right along with them—even though He knew what He was going to do! We often misunderstand His intentions, because His ways are so different from our own. Sometimes He waits to answer, because in spite of our pain—and even in spite of His own pain for us—He loves beyond the moment.
He loves eternally.
God will come. His faithfulness is a part of who He is. But He doesn’t always show up on our time table. At times He waits precisely because He loves us. He comes when it brings Him the greatest glory—and us the greatest good. Sometimes that means He’ll come long after our hope has died and is rotting in the grave. But the Author of Life is never limited—not even by death. Often, the longer He waits … the more staggering, amazing, marvelous and miraculous His ultimate answer will be.
That was certainly the case in Bethany.
After Lazarus had been in the grave four whole days, Jesus spoke three simple words that turned tragedy into triumph, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus did—grave clothes and all! What was dead—made alive. What was lost—restored. There was no flash, no thunder, no trumpet blast … just three simple words. God spoke, and it was.
That can happen for us too. Even after we resign ourselves to the loss of our dreams. Even after we begin to settle for less than what we once believed possible—convinced that God has denied our prayers. But then, after it seems far too late, Jesus shows up. He speaks. Suddenly tragedy is turned into triumph, and hope is resurrected … eternally. Because when something has died and then risen again …
It lives forever.
“I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”—John 11:25
Do you believe this? Hold on. Today may be Friday … but Sunday’s coming.