Devotional Week 11 Thursday
“Let not them that wait on thee, O Lord God of hosts; be ashamed.”
Hard Times, And Sweet
“Let us so bind ourselves
that we will not only adhere to You
in times of consolation,
in times of sweetness and devotion
and when life goes smoothly,
but yet more securely
in the bleak and bitter
season of the soul –
in the iron hard winters of the spirit.”
Today’s Study Text:
“When Mary came to the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she dropped down at His feet, saying to Him, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11: 32
“How To Deal With Bitterness”
“The Bitter Pill Called ‘Waiting’” Part IX
“We can’t hurry God, and we can’t bribe Him or force Him to alter the plan He’s made. But we can learn to trust Him not to waste our waiting time.”
Karon Phillips Goodman
You’re Late Again, Lord
What is it in my life that I am waiting for?
How long have I been waiting for God to come to my rescue and assistance?
Has this “waiting time” made me grow bitter and angry that God has not responded to my cry for help as I wanted Him to?
“Delays can actually be part of God’s purpose; seemingly unanswered prayer can be as much a part of God’s will as answered prayer.”
R. T. Kendall
“I thank God for all the times I’ve prayed for silver and He’s said no – and made me wait so He could give me gold instead.”
This past week, our small community celebrated the 20th anniversary of our local film festival. Having grown into quite a significant event, the crowds that filled our town for the last ten days put a rather severe strain on the roads and facilities which provide transportation and lodging for visitors. After making, what was to be, a quick run to our local market, Jim came home completely frustrated. As he reported, “The five minute drive to Safeway, took me 30 minutes!” Simply put, Jim doesn’t like to wait and this adventure, he freely admitted, pushed his patience to the breaking point.
Personally, I don’t think any of us likes waiting. We prefer to have our needs met immediately. And yet, we find that throughout the Bible, there are many times when God’s children found themselves waiting for their requests to be answered.
In fact, there were occasions in the Bible when the most faithful of God’s beloved ones, were pushed to a point of almost losing their faith in God, because it seemed God was either ignoring their prayers or He just let them go on, year after year, without intervening in any visible way.
Maybe you find you are able to relate to a Hannah, who with great weeping year-after-year asked God for a child. Or how about Sarah and Abraham who had been told by God that they would absolutely bear a child, and yet, into old age, they still had not conceived the baby they were promised. And just to underscore, the problem of unfilled dreams and unanswered prayer wasn’t something limited only to the Old Testament.
When Jesus came to earth, in the gospel record found in the New Testament, we find repeated times when the actions Jesus took, left those closest to Him scratching their heads, wondering why in the world Jesus seemed slow in responding to the people He cared for.
There is no place where we find Jesus’ behavior more perplexing than in the case of Lazarus, Martha and Mary – a family that had honored Jesus by opening their home to Him on multiple occasions. The Apostle John, who we are told “loved Jesus,” gives us a very personal eyewitness account in John 11 when he writes that, “A certain man named Lazarus was ill.” Jesus took care of the needs of many sick people when he was on earth. But John makes specific mention regarding Lazarus, “He was of Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived.” And John didn’t stop by telling his readers who Lazarus happened to be related to. He continued in John 11: 2 by providing us with details on the situation when he noted that, “this Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair.” Then as if to highlight this story even more, John tells us again, “It was her (Mary’s) brother Lazarus who was now sick” (Luke 11: 2). I believe the reason John went to such lengths to lay out for us the uniqueness of this situation is that it was important for all of us, every child of God, to understand that this particular family was close to Jesus. He was a “member” of their family. They considered Jesus to be an integral part of their world. They would do anything for Him. And up to this point in time, I really believe they thought Jesus would turn heaven and earth for them, too.
Because of the closeness they felt with Jesus, it must have been a “bitter pill” to swallow when we are told that Mary and Martha sent an urgent message to Jesus, letting Him know that, as John puts it, “he whom You love so well is sick” (John 11: 3).
Let me ask you, what would you have thought Jesus would have done when He received this critical message? If you had opened your home over and over to Jesus; if He had a room in your house that He could call “His;” if He knew He could stop-in at any moment unannounced, what would you think would happen when Jesus learned that, you, His dearest friend was sick unto death? Well, I’m going to tell you, the last thing I would have imagined was that Jesus would have chosen to, “stay two days longer in the same place where He was,” and if this wasn’t enough of a cold-shoulder, John elaborates by adding insult to injury when he reports that additionally, “after that interval He (Jesus) said to His disciples, ‘Let us go back again to Judea” (John 11: 6, 7).
To be clear, even Jesus’ disciples appeared shocked by this behavior and with good reason for as they reminded Jesus, “Rabbi, the Jews only recently were intending and trying to stone You, and are You thinking of going back there again?”
Now Jesus’ response to their concern seems even more confusing for He answered: “’Are there not twelve hours in the day? Anyone who walks about in the daytime does not stumble, because he sees by the light of this world. But if anyone walks about in the night, he does stumble, because there is no light in him.’ (Jesus) said these things, and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep’…Jesus then told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead’” (John 11: 9-14).
After being questioned about Lazarus’ condition, and obviously confused by Jesus’ words and behavior, the plain truth was laid out to the disciples, “Lazarus, my dear friend is dead.”
Frankly, if I had been present as Jesus talked about the condition of His dear friend, I would have wondered to myself, “What is going on here? Why the waiting? What is Jesus doing making His supposed friends go through such a tough ordeal?”
Four days later, when Jesus finally got to Bethany, things were really in a mess for now with their brother dead, and Jesus finally getting into town, Mary and Martha were beside themselves with grief and they didn’t hesitate to let Jesus know that they simply could not understand His apparently apathetic treatment toward those He called His dear friends. As both Mary and Martha told Jesus in no uncertain terms, “Master, if You had been here, (our) brother would not have died” (John 11: 21). Just put yourself in the sister’s position.
During four long days, Jesus was silent. They didn’t hear from Him at the most critical time in their lives. When they needed Jesus most, His silence was deafening. They were paralyzed by the sorrow they felt as they watched life slip out of their brother. From their vantage point, once Lazarus died, the end had come. But as author Lois Evans reminds us in her book, Stones of Remembrance, “God’s silence doesn’t mean His absence. Just because (we) can’t see or hear God doesn’t negate His presence and active work behind the scenes.” Then she makes this very astute and hopeful observation, “Base your movement on ‘Who’ you know and what you know about Him, not on what you are seeing and feeling at the moment.”
This is exactly what we witness happening when Jesus arrived for John tells us that first Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him?” And second, Jesus ordered, “Take the stone away!” Then with a shout Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11: 34, 39, 43).
I absolutely love the way John leaves a record which tells us what happened next:
“And out walked the man who had been dead, his hands and feet wrapped in burial cloths (linen strips), and with a burial napkin bound around his face, Jesus said to them, ‘Free him of the burial wrappings and let him go.’”
I want to share the words penned by New Testament professor A. K. M. Adam who writes that the “flow of John 11 begins with a challenging situation: Lazarus is suffering from a fatal affliction, so what will Jesus do about it? Jesus responds by deliberately delaying his visit for several days ‘so that the Son of God may be glorified.’ I hope you note the critical point Professor Adam makes which is also noted by the Apostle John in the words of Jesus found in John 11: 4, “this sickness is not to end in death; but on the contrary it is to honor God and to promote His glory that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” This lesson, one I have had a difficult time understanding in my own life during “waiting times” is that all that happens in my world is to bring glory to my Father and is to reflect His compassionate love here on earth. This means that during those times when God’s timetable and mine aren’t in “sync,” I will remember that my Father’s plan is so much greater than my own. As author Ginger Garrett correctly points out, “The time (we) spend waiting today can become the critical time God uses to prepare (us) for the answers to (our) prayers.” What’s more, Professor Adam shares “there were a number of “impediments” which Jesus faced when He arrived in Bethany and found Lazarus dead and buried. The obstacles included a stone in front of the tomb; the stench of a decomposing body; and linen that bound Lazarus.” But as he points out, “None of these avail against Jesus’ command.”
So I ask you today, what are the obstacles which you have found are keeping you “waiting” today? Have these blockages caused you difficulty as you have been forced to swallow the “bitter pill” we call waiting. Let me share this fact with you. Since our accident, I’ve had to take more medication than ever before in my life and much of it has been very “bitter” if I left the pill to dissolve in my mouth. Yet, when taken and absorbed into my body, I often have found the “bitter” to have a healing affect on my being, giving me new strength and reinvigorated health.
In one of my favorite poems, written by Matthew Biller, he points to the fact that when we call for help, during those times when we believe God has forgotten us and there are obstacles which make the waiting long and it causes us to become weary, we can be thankful that our Father promises to “hear our call.”
“God will answer when to thee,
Not a possibility of deliverance seems near;
It is then He will appear.
God will answer when you pray
Yea, though mountains block the way,
At His word, a way will be
E’en through mountains, made for thee.
God who still divides the sea,
Willingly will work for thee;
God, before whom mountains fall,
Promises to hear thy call.”
Our “bitter pill” called “waiting time” may only be God’s preparation time. So get ready for the great plans God has for your life!
The Ready Song
“Lord make me ready to hear
ready to see
ready to receive Your gift of love
ready to do
ready to go
ready for all You’re making for me.
Lord make me ready to hear Your story
ready to see Your glory
ready to receive Your gift
of love – that’s Jesus!
ready to do what’s right
ready to go spread Your light
ready for all You’re making ready for me.
This past week my dear friend Mary, who like so many of us has been in a lengthy “waiting time” in her own life, shared a song which you can find on YouTube, sung by Karen Peck and New River, entitled “Four Days Late.” I encourage you to listen to this moving rendition and let the thoughts inspire you. I want to end today’s devotional with the last stanza of this song penned by C. Aaron Wilburn and Roberta Wilburn.
“You may be fighting a battle of fear
You cry to the Lord
‘I need You’
But He has not appeared.
Friend, don’t be discouraged
‘Cause He’s still the same
He’ll soon be here
He’ll roll back the stone
And He’ll call out your name.
But He’s four days late
And all help is gone
Lord we don’t understand
Why You waited so long.
But His way is God’s way
Not yours or mine
And isn’t it great
When He’s four days late
He’s still on time.”
C. Aaron Wilburn and
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus