When God Delays

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was (JN 11.5-6).

These two sentences seem to contradict each other.  The first says that Jesus loved his friends.  Yet when he hears of Lazarus’ serious illness, rather than responding, he waits two days longer, and Lazarus dies.  That doesn’t sound like love to me.  Wouldn’t it have been more loving for the Great Physician to rush to the aid of his friends?

But Jesus delays precisely because of his love for them, for he has something far better in mind than simply healing Lazarus.  He aims to display his glory by raising Lazarus from the dead.  He will demonstrate that he is the Resurrection and the Life, the omnipotent God who speaks a word and raises the dead, just like he spoke and created the galaxies.

Sometimes God delays to answer our requests because he intends to reveal his glory in a greater way than we can imagine.

I recently heard the senior pastor of a large church share that when he was a teen he rejected his parents and their faith.  “All I wanted was to be left alone,” he said.  One family reunion he refused to leave the family van, but sat there in a black funk all day in the cold rather than join the family.  Even when his grandmother cajoled him to come in he rebuffed her.

Yet in time, God led him to the cross.  Now he’s leading a church.

I’m sure his folks prayed for his salvation from birth and would have preferred that Jesus save him as a child.  But by rescuing him later in life, Christ displayed his almighty power to redeem the hellbound and hardened, giving hope to hundreds of parents.

So whatever you’re praying for, don’t give up, even if it seems like nothing’s happening.  Jesus is planning something greater than you can imagine.

  • Wendy

    This is a very helpful and encouraging reminder! It is so easy for me to think- in several situations that I am praying for right now- that it would make so much sense for God to answer is a certain way. But my ways are not God’s ways. He sees the whole big picture of the universe and all of time and He knows what is best for us. i know that when He does choose to answer, that it will be for my good – For all things work together for good for those who love God. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Dave

    I really needed this TODAY. Thank you. BTW, we used Stephen’s “How Deep” yesterday as part of our Easter Services…our church loves this song…I’m a music guy and “found” you guys through various other Sovereign Grace resources I use/read.

  • benjamin

    i love the confidence of Jesus in knowing who is was; the resurection and the life. Jesus knew that death was not the end for him. he was Lord over it. Sometimes, like you said, Jesus let’s something die before he brings it back to life at the right time, and normally, it is for His glory. Good post.

  • http://www.photosandquotes.blogspot.com YellerDaisies

    I love how Christ’s omniscience is on display in this passage. To Mary, Martha, the disciples, and their friends; all hope was lost. Nothing could be done and God, for some unknown and unthinkable reason, had delayed. It appeared He had said no and allowed Lazurus to die. But, God knows all. No One is more powerful, nothing can thwart His plans. He Who created the universe and knows everything, He could see the big picture. He knew what would bring Him the most glory. But, I often forget that He also knew what was best for Mary & Martha. He knew what would build their faith, He knew what would cause them to marvel, He knew what would bless them the most. What seemed like the world crashing around at their feet, was really God’s awesome kindness. Little did they know what was around the corner. They couldn’t see that God was about to work in mighty ways…but, God could.

    Thank you! This is a very helpful reminder to me as I’ve been praying through some unaswered questions this weekend.

  • http://www.asacrificeofpraise.wordpress.com Emily

    thanks mark. yet again, God is using your words to encourage my weary soul. at the church i visited on sunday, the pastor preached on this passage. he was pointing out how that Jesus is not indifferent to human suffering… He didn’t just say “buck up” to Mary and Martha in their grief. No, He wept with them. He wept, even knowing that He would soon be chatting with Lazarus once again. another thing that was encouraging was to see that Jesus delayed in order to grow the faith of the disciples. i can see that this is so true in my life… as God delays from answering prayers I have asked, i find that I look to Him more. I become more desperate and I find myself clinging to Him as my only hope. thanks yet again for a very timely reminder!

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for your comments. And I appreciate your reminder that my ways are not God’s ways!

    Thanks Dave, from one music guy to another!

    Hey Benjamin,

    I like the way you put it – Jesus often lets things die before he brings them back to life – that’s true with many things in our lives. Amen, all for his glory.

    Thanks Yeller!

    What comprehensive comments! I like the way you said that what seemed to them the world was crashing around at their feet was God’s awesome kindness. How I need to remember this!

    Hi Emily,

    Great comments – Jesus’ compassion, his building our faith…Isn’t it great that Jesus doesn’t say “buck up”? I like that! One commentator I read said that you could translate “Jesus wept” as “Jesus burst into tears.” What a loving Savior! Thanks!

  • beth

    well said.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Thanks Beth!