© 2017 Lynn Abbott
While the information addresses serious concerns, I smile every time I drive past the hospital sign.
You see, the hospital near my home advertises its emergency room wait times. And if you have ever spent time sitting in an emergency room, you know how critical that can be.
Actually, I’m rather embarrassed by how much time I’ve spent in emergency. Did you say accident prone? Yes, and yes again.
But I believe the most memorable of waits came after cancer surgery. My temperature spiked and both my husband and I were concerned there might be an infection. So off to the hospital we went.
And you betcha. We waited and waited some more. The wait seemed interminable.
You can imagine how relieved I was when a hospital staff member finally called my name and directed me to an emergency room bed. The on-call physician arrived soon thereafter, and under his care, I soon began to improve.
When you need a physician, waiting becomes an extraordinary hardship. Well… let’s face it. For most of us, waiting is difficult no matter the circumstances.
Yet, in this life, more often than not, you and I find ourselves seated in the waiting room.
Perhaps, you’re there now. If you are anything like me, you’ve found it to be a rough go.
Sometimes, I whine.
I certainly question: “What’s taking so long, Abba?”
I suppose that’s why It isn’t difficult for me to understand how the twelve felt on that stormy passage across Galilee. Jesus had suggested that they cross by boat, and when once underway, had drifted off to sleep.
However, as was frequent on the sea, a sudden storm threatened to swamp or collapse their craft. Yes, Jesus was present, but “Why isn’t He doing something?” I can almost hear them cry.
In the “emergency room,” I want immediate solutions. I hate the wait.
Actually, the apostle John records a crisis faced by Mary and Martha that only seemed to go from bad to worse when the arrival of the Great Physician was delayed.
It’s a perplexing account for any who long for an immediate fix to the trials and difficulties brought by this life’s journey. And Scripture acknowledges the very real and human response of the two sisters.
Word had been sent to Jesus: Lazarus was very ill. The two sisters did not demand Jesus’ attendance on Lazarus; they simply sent word and waited for the Savior.
They rested in Christ’s love. I think sometimes that when we read the account, we miss their humility and great faith. They trusted the Savior. They called on Him in their hour of need…
“Lord, the one you love is sick,” they said.
The message revealed both faith and hope. It depended on Christ’s love for grace and mercy in the face of death.
I must admit that at first read, Christ’s delay troubles me. I find it difficult to understand why He might not rush to Lazarus’ side. Why not save Mary and Martha from seemingly unnecessary grief? As God incarnate, Jesus certainly had the power to heal Lazarus, to prevent Lazarus’ death.
Jesus revealed purpose to His disciples even though at first they didn’t understand His explanation.
“‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” He said.
Given His promise, I suspect His disciples were completely shock when Jesus later told them that Lazarus had died.
“But I thought you said…” would have definitely been uttered privately if not publicly. To be honest, I have asked “why?” when things didn’t work out the way I hoped or expected. And I certainly have expressed my confusion before the heavenly throne.
“What about your promises, Lord?” I stammer between sobs.
Maybe, you have said similar things as well. After all, when the storm rages around us, when our eyes smart from sea spray and when fear rushes in as our boat fills with sea water, faith often wavers.
Indeed, the waiting room tests our faith.
I definitely understand Martha’s heart when Jesus met her on the road just outside of Bethany.
“‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she said.
She believed Christ could heal. Martha had faith in Christ; yet, she hurt. She grieved. She even gently and humbly questioned.
“I don’t understand, ” she essentially said in that honest moment. Nevertheless, despite her grief and perplexity, she clung to her Savior.
“But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask,” she said expectantly.
When push came to shove, she placed her hope in Christ.
And Jesus replied, “Your brother will rise again.”
Had I been in Martha’s place, I likely would have responded as she did. After all, I’ve been to plenty of funerals, including those of loved ones, where the promise of resurrection brings great comfort for a future reunion.
Apparently, Martha had heard the same messages. She, in fact, noted that she believed her brother would rise at the last day. No immediate fixes expected at this juncture.
Yet, in this quiet moment with Martha just outside her hometown, Jesus pursues the purpose for his delay. Gently, He reminds Martha of what she has come to know about Him. He nudges her faith.
In doing so, He reveals more of who He is to Martha: “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 11:25-26).
And Martha confessed Christ as her Messiah. Just as Peter had, she rightly identified Christ as the Son of God, and placed her faith fully in Him, (John 11:27).
But Scripture reveals that Martha wasn’t the only one struggling with the delay. Even Mary, the one praised for sitting at Jesus’ feet and one who certainly knew her Savior, questioned as she waited.
In fact, when she heard that Jesus had arrived, she hurried out of the house, fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” (John 11:32).
Same song, second sister.
A crowd tagged along as well. Obviously, this was bigger than just Mary and Martha. Faith in Bethany had reached a crisis.
But Jesus had promised: Lazarus’ illness would not end in death, but God would be glorified.
God’s plan was for the good of the ones He loved; yet, God’s plan would also bring God glory.
Why the delay? It was simply a matter of stretching and building faith. God’s perspective includes the long-range. He seeks more than our short-term good.
In Lazarus’ case, the wait did not last long. However, Abba’s children did wait and that wait brought temporary heartache and pain.
And Jesus wept for the living, grieving family and friends. As Jeremiah once wrote,”For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He will show compassion, so great is His unfailing love. For He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men,” (Lamentations 3: 31-33).
God’s grace may not come as we expect. When they sent word, Mary and Martha undoubtedly believed that Jesus would come and heal their brother.
But God had bigger plans for Lazarus as well as for his sisters.
In 2007, I caught a glimmer of God’s grace when I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, and later that year, when we were told my mother’s cancer was terminal.
No. Not really.
I was too ill to contemplate the character lessons I might glean from my medical condition. I definitely did not ponder the impact of my future testimony for God.
I simply struggled to survive. And I spent what little energy I possessed to serve and care for my mother.
Yet, throughout that time, circumstances drove me into my Abba-God’s throne room. I ran to Him with my heartbreak and my questions.
Daily in God’s great hall of grace, my shoes could be heard clattering on what I imagine to be beautiful, polished, marble floors. I sprinted without fear, and boldly climbed into my Father’s lap.
Once there, I leaned back and cried–content to be in my Father’s arms. And so it was that I came to see “through a glass dimly” that what Abba cares about is His relationship with His child.
Could Jesus have healed Lazarus from afar? Decidedly so. He had healed the son of a Roman official from a great distance.
But His eternal relationship with Mary and Martha took precedence over their immediate rescue from temporary, albeit heartbreaking, circumstances. Indeed, without a doubt, the faith of Mary, Martha and all those who observed Lazarus’ resurrection grew exponentially that day.
Truly, grace seeks to establish both our good and God’s glory.
Long ago, in that beautiful, serene garden, our trust was broken. Humanity disobeyed Abba, and as a result, we came to fear the One who created us for a close and intimate relationship with Him. Jesus calls us back to paradise by way of renewed relationship with Him. He offers a place of pure comfort, peace and joy.
So why do we often find ourselves in the waiting room?
As He did for the twelve and for Mary and Martha–step-by-step and miracle-after-miracle– our Savior gradually restores our faith in Him.
Of course, on the cross, the sin barrier was torn away; even so, the residue of broken-ness remains in each of us.
For this reason, our journey with Christ must necessarily be one of practical restoration. With each path we face, and even in the waiting, He longs to strengthen our faith, our love and trust in Him.
In the waiting room, He weeps with us. He cares for us. He increasingly and gently draws us back to Eden’s relationship. He invites us to rest in Him.
And for Christ, the restoration of that kind of eternal relationship with you and me supersedes every temporal thing.
Infinitely wise, He knows that we cannot have true joy without the primary relationship for which we were created. All, then, that comes into our lives is designed to draw us home to Him…
Our ultimate good; His eternal glory.
We need only respond to His call, His gentle whisper in the midst of life’s tumult and raging winds: “Do you believe?”
Because of Abba’s extraordinary love and grace toward us, it matters not how you and I run to Him. We can come with all our perplexities, with all our questioning cries.
That’s right. We can place everything before Him, and trust that He unconditionally loves us.
Especially in the waiting…
He has promised to work all things together for our good as well as for His glory, (Romans 8:28; John 11:4).
And so, when we cry, we can rest assured that not only does He love us, but also that He pulls us into His infinite lap–eager to comfort His children.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 8:38-39
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” Psalm 46:1
“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever…” Psalm 138:8a