I will deliver you and you will honor Me."
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one You love is sick."
When He heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory, so that God may be glorified through it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.
Since we spent time with Psalm 50 in Community Group last week, I've been meditating on Psalm 50:15. In the psalm, God speaks against Israel's foolish notion of controlling God through sacrifices. Easy to scoff at, yet I try to do the very same thing in my own idolatrous ways. I want Him to be maneuverable and safe. But God will not settle for some kind of transactional relationship with me.
Verse 15 is the way we will relate, He and I. There will be a day of trouble. It's a given– nonnegotiable. In that day, I will call upon Him. And He will deliver me. This is the truth, God's promise, to be preached to my brethren in encouragement, to myself in faith and hope, and back to Him in prayer.
Lazarus died. Jesus loved Lazarus, loved his sisters. Yet He does not preempt his death, does not avert the day of trouble. Why?
He is wild, only predictable insomuch as He is true to His own word, given for my assurance. He loves me, but I cannot control Him. Indeed, if He does love me, He cannot let me control Him, even if such a thing could ever be. The day of trouble will come, must come, so that I will call on Him, so that He will deliver me, so that I will honor Him. This is how we love one another.
It is not wrong for me to pray for deliverance. Quite the opposite– it is required. It is how the activity of my loving Him begins to express itself, in need. I will call on Him in the day of trouble. But He is not unfaithful to me by not keeping me from suffering. Indeed, if He loves me, I will suffer. But only for a time, and only for His glory. He will deliver me and I will honor Him.
Lazarus' time was four days in the grave. There was no uncertainty in the outcome for Jesus. His friend would live by His power, for the glory of God. Yet His peace does not look like the peace Christians often try to sell ourselves in the midst of suffering. He does not enter this moment two days later with a beatific, vacuous smile and a pocketful of Scripture to toss about. He is present. His faith is truer, deeper, richer, fuller than anything I can imagine, yet He enters into suffering rather than sidestepping it. He is fully human and fully God.