Lazarus was dying. Nothing could help him, and the last hope was their dear friend and miracle worker, Jesus. His sisters, Mary & Martha, sent an urgent message to Jesus and were waiting with bated breath for the moment he’d show up and save the day.
I find myself wondering about those sisters, Mary and Martha, during the days between calling for Jesus to come and the funeral of their beloved brother.
I imagine their desperation as they awaited his arrival and watched their brother slowly waste away.
Did the send the kids out to the end of the road to watch for Jesus’ arrival? Did the townspeople hold their breath as they went about their business, hoping to be the first to glimpse Jesus coming in to save the day?
Did they watch Lazarus suffer, confident that any moment now his friend Jesus would show up and take all the suffering away?
And when Jesus didn’t come?
Did they, like me, begin to doubt their place in God’s kingdom?
Perhaps Jesus finally was received by the kings of the land. Of course he wouldn’t show up to our home with crumbling plaster and silly old me. He deserves it. It’s for the best.
Perhaps there was suffering greater than ours. A whole town hit by some terrible disease, and he had to balance the healing of hundreds versus our brother. It only makes sense he’d choose them.
Maybe Jesus was choosing to bring his healing power to those who had no place to turn and no hope at all, when our access to doctors and remedies makes us far from hopeless. Maybe we’re just supposed to look after this illness ourselves so he can spend his energy on those who need it worse.
We want – we need – a reason for God’s silence, and sometimes the one I reach for is that others need God’s attention more than me.
If God needs to prioritize…
I’d never say it like that out loud; I’d never admit I even think that way.
After all, God loves us equally.
But if he had to choose between helping me hold my temper or saving human trafficking victims in Asia – you know what? Don’t worry about me. I can manage.
If he has to choose between listening to me complain about my never-ending to-do list or sitting with someone as they watch their loved ones die – I can wait.
If his provisions have a limit, then provide for those who have nothing – not this middle class gal who sometimes struggles to pay for my wants but has everything she needs.
My mediocrity has nothing worth listening to when he has the voices of the truly suffering as well as the voices of the wildly successful clamouring for his attention. Of course I’d get a little lost in the middle.
I want to give him an excuse.
I want to understand why.
And given that every single one of us has, at one point, felt overlooked, undervalued, denied or dismissed it’s no wonder our fear and shame creep in when heaven feels silent.
But what we can’t see in ourselves, we can clearly see in others. I know how this story ends.
I feel forgotten; I know Mary’s not.
I feel dismissed; I know Lazarus is on the forefront of Jesus’ mind.
I feel unimportant; I know Martha is treasured.
I want to embrace Mary and whisper in her ear: “don’t worry. He loves you.”
I want to look Martha in the eye and tell her, “You are one of the few He calls friend. He has not forgotten.”
I want to reassure the sisters Jesus has heard their cries and has a plan. I want to rush to the end of the story – Lazarus lives – and reassure the sisters of the great things he is going to do through their family’s testimony.
They can’t hear, of course, and so they sit in the silence, wondering as I have done.
But perhaps those words can penetrate the fog for you and I:
Don’t worry. He loves you.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God (1 John 3:1)
He calls you friend.
I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)
He has not forgotten.
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (Isaiah 49:15)
Great things will happen.
[He] is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, (Eph 3:20)
In the silence, remember who you are – friend, son, daughter, family. And remember who God is – Father, healer, provider, comforter.
He will show up. I promise.