Lingering Painfully in Hope

Someone told me recently that I don’t just have a full plate, I have a full platter.  I cracked up and continued in the conversation.  I’ve been thinking about that for a few days now, and it’s not as funny now.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a deep appreciation for wit so the humor wasn’t lost on me.  But the reality of that full platter, that sometimes feels like a full buffet, can be a bit overwhelming at times when I’m not focused on Christ.  There are too many times that I take the future into my own hands expecting to be able to serve up the appetizer at the same time as the main dish and dessert.  When you do that, one of them is bound to get cold and go uneaten.

So, full platter, too little sleep and those closest to me in rebellion of the to-do list.  That’s the perfect recipe for a come-apart.  I felt it coming.  Loosing control of your emotions isn’t something that “just happens”, you can feel it building.  I recognized it, and did my best to help change the mood at home.  Over dinner I tried to crack jokes or encourage the downtrodden of my offspring and spouse.  It was basically an epic fail.  The more I tried, the more everyone seemed to retreat into their repressed state of mind.  I even prayed with my husband knowing that Christ was needed.  Over the course of the evening, I too succumbed the thick veil of tension.  The underlying irritation with attitudes coupled with an overbooked schedule came erupting from me like Mt. Vesuvius.  I had a 2 minute temper tantrum that lingered for hours.

Immediately following my tantrum, I felt guilt and shame for not being in control of myself.  I firmly believe that an indicator of spiritual maturity is exhibited in self-control … of your emotions, your words and your actions.  Like I have already confessed, I failed.  Why didn’t God show up when I prayed?  I saw the signs and went straight to Him for help.  He is aware of all things at all times, and has promised to never leave me or forsake me.  So why would He turn a deaf ear to my petition?  Is it because He doesn’t love me?  No, absolutely not!  His love abounds, and He will give me beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”  After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”  When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.  When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.  When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

John 11:17-44

I questioned where Jesus was in my time of need, and it was nothing compared to the death of a loved one.  Although Jesus knew that Lazarus would ultimately be raised from the dead, He still wept and was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  Just like the Jews gathered at this tomb, I question why Jesus will open the eyes of the blind yet not keep someone from dying.  Why do certain answers to prayer come quickly, while others seem to be withheld while we are lingering painfully in hope?

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

John 11:14-15

Maybe the deepening of our belief in Christ, our faith and hope, is the reason we are allowed to go through certain trials.  I’m not referring to all struggles.  There are those that are consequences of sin and others that are schemes of the enemy used in an attempt to destroy us.  No, not all struggles can fall into this category, but I think that there are many that can.  If the sickness is cured early on, do we praise God or the doctor?  When the budget is short and we get a raise, do we praise God or our employer?  Do we take on the praise ourselves for children that succeed or a marriage that doesn’t have conflict?  Maybe we are allowed to experience some struggles on our own so that when Christ does come in to heal and restore there is no possibility of mistaking His hand at work.  And just like He did for Lazarus whom He loved, I believe that He weeps for me when I hurt, and that He is moved in spirit and troubled when I mourn.

Earlier tonight, I expected a divine intervention in the midst of rough waters.  I lost sight of the promise made “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”  The focus needs to be on pressing toward eternal life by believing in Him.  For my faith to be sincere, it won’t be dependent on Jesus delivering me from every challenge.  Actually, without those challenges I cannot show that I am living my life through my belief.  Each time I am allowed to struggle and continue in my faith, I am one step closer to death which is ultimately life.

Read Day 10 Devotion by Scott

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