I love a story of God’s miraculous intervention! My heart rejoices when I hear about the power of Jesus changing someone’s life- healing, providing, restoring a family, setting someone free from a sinful habit. I will just say it – Sometimes He does not do what I want Him to do and I am disappointed in Him. We do not hear many people say that out loud but I know that many feel the same way.
In the Gospel we meet some people who were acquainted with Martha and Mary, sisters grieving the death of their brother, who were disappointed in Jesus! “But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” (John 11:37, NLT) Can you feel their pain and confusion?
Here is something we need to recognize upfront as we wrestle with God’s will. Some of the time our disappointment results from wrong expectations! A young, wealthy nobleman came to Jesus inquiring about how to find eternal life. (Matthew 19) He fully expected Jesus to commend his goodness for he had carefully observed the Commandments. Perhaps he thought Jesus would welcome him into His inner circle? However, Jesus spoke to his greatest need; his love for his wealth. “Go, give it all away, then come and follow Me.” That man was disappointed! Matthew tells us simply, “He went away sad.”
Does your faith include the thought that the Lord knows your real need and acts to meet it?
Or are you so fixed on having it your way that you walk away angry or sad when He does not do what you ask Him to do?
In the Lazarus account, we get the insider view; something that the mourners did not have. When Jesus delayed His response to their request that He come and heal Lazarus, He was not being selfish. He was not uncaring, nor was He just busy doing something else. He waited four days, got word his friend had died, and then He told the disciples- “Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.” (John 11:14-15, The Message) There was a purpose in Lazarus’ death. God would show His power and strengthen faith but what a cost it involved.
This was not the first nor the only time this reason was given for someone’s difficulty. After healing a blind man, who the disciples assumed was that way because of someone’s sin, Jesus told them they were wrong. He was blind so that God’s glory could be displayed in his healing. In our thinking, that seems unfair, but God reserves the right to do as He pleases.
Even as I write those lines I have in mind those who have a child with some severe disability, those who are stuck in war zones living shattered lives, those who are battling an addiction that relentlessly tempts and tests. How can God allow these things? Why doesn’t He act? Is He unfair? No answer is complete, no explanation satisfies every question – on this side of eternity.
I strongly believe in His gift of freedom, that He does not directly act to contravene our wills. He allows human beings to do things that have rippling effects on others both for good and for evil. The God I know from experience and from Scripture’s record invites us to participate in establishing His rule. He begins with my heart. He asks me to surrender myself, my demands, my sin to Him; to become useful for His purposes.
His plan may not include my momentary happiness, but it will lead to deep joy. That is a tough concept for those of us who believe so strongly in having our own way, that we have a right to be happy. The truth is that we are in His hands, living for His purposes, and our greater reason for existence is to know Him, to worship Him, to love Him beyond our own personal comfort. Thus, despite the fervent prayers we offer, Jesus sometimes refuses our request. Will we trust Him in those moments, assured that He is doing something that is outside the reach of our comprehension? Will our trust be shown in obedience and faithful service, as we work under His command to defeat sin, evil, and suffering?
My appeal today is not to fatalism, to resignation, to some grim kind of existence that is just holding out for heaven! Jesus promises that even in the middle of our disappointments, He will be present. When we accept His Presence, we find Life. In His presence there is full joy!
Here are words from Paul that I love. In the middle of hard times, his faith took a beating, but this inspired word reveals something greater. May our faith find the same Solid Rock.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace.” (2 Corinthians 1:8-12, NIV)
Father, lead me to Your will,
Give me grace to embrace You, beyond my own wishes.
Help me to see You as my hope,
To hold tightly to You when life goes upside down.
Where I need to turn to You, away from sin,
Where evil is raging against You in my life,
When the way is steep by Your will,
Let Jesus’ beauty shine brightly.
Be glorified, this is my prayer.