When God is Late

This morning, I was reading the very familiar story of Lazarus in John 11. You know how it goes. Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick. Instead of dropping everything and running to his friend's bedside, He...does nothing. To me, from my human standpoint, it makes no sense. If Jesus really loved Lazarus and his sisters, wouldn't he have made it his top priority to be there in their time of need? But nestled in those beginning verses is a reminder that Jesus' viewpoint is not the same as ours. He says, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." (v. 5) Jesus knew full well that Lazarus was not going to stay dead. He allowed Lazarus and his family to go through the death and grieving process---not because He delights in seeing us suffer, but because He has a greater purpose and vision in store.

Jesus could have saved them much grief by going right away. But He didn't. He chose to wait. He chose to let them experience the pain.

I'm speculating here, but perhaps He did this so that it would prepare them to receive what He had always intended. Perhaps He knew that if He just healed Lazarus on their timetable, the Father would not get the glory. Perhaps in cutting back on the pain, He knew He was also shortchanging God of the glory He deserved.

But I think He also had another reason for the delay. In verse 15, after He tells them that Lazarus is dead, He says, "and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe." As His death draws ever more imminent, Jesus had in mind His disciples as well. Perhaps they needed this death as much as Lazarus and his sisters did. He knew that His disciples needed the faith to believe when He himself went to His own death on the cross.

This past weekend, we heard from our realtors about the one and only offer we received on our house. It was too low for us, so we sent in a counter-offer. Whether that was a smart move on our part or not, we don't know. We thought it was an act of faith. Anyways, it was rejected.

The news came at the worst possible time. My husband and I were packing to leave for a marriage retreat that we were facilitating together. The ride up the mountaintop was a silent one. My husband later admitted to me that he felt that a dream for him had died. It seemed like Jesus was waiting...again.

In times like this, it is hard to give thanks. The last time we put our house up on the market, it was up for 10 months and we had no offers. This time, we gave ourselves a one month time limit. We had even less activity than before. About midway into the month, we concluded that God's will for us was to stay.

So when the offer came, we were amazed. Maybe He was going to do a miracle on our behalf after all! Why did He allow our hopes to rise only to dash them again?

The only thing I can think of is that this "will not end in death." He is a God of life. He is a God who desires to lavish His love on His children (1 John 3:1).

We still don't know the end to the story. Our realtors have been working very hard with the potential buyer's agent to see if they can't work out a deal. We're submitting another counter-offer today. What will happen? I really don't know.

But if I can only praise and thank Him when I know the answer one way or the other, that is a different lesson to learn than praising and thanking Him when I do not. And so, I believe that God's desire for me now is to learn how to thank Him even when the dream seems dead.

Personally, I would much rather not have to go through the uncertainty again. I would much rather not get my hopes up. Let's move on! That's my natural response. It's so hard being in that waiting place.

But even in this place, God is showing me there is much to be thankful for. We are together as a family. We have God on our side. We have godly realtors who are doing all that is ethically possible, even at their own loss, to help us. We have friends who are laboring in prayer for us. Our faith is growing stronger as we step into the unknown with Him.

The story isn't over yet. We still don't know how this is going to end. But whatever the ending, I am learning that He is never late. He is never wasteful in allowing pain into our lives. Somehow this will not end in death, but in the glory of the Father.

And that's worth the wait.