Have you ever had an experience where something that felt comfortable, secure, and like an all-around pleasant thing was yanked right from underneath you? Something you thought was one way suddenly became something quite different, and beg my pardon for saying this… it sucked.
For me, the figurative visual looks a little like this: Digging my heels into the sand, locking my knees, flinging my arms and screaming “Nooo! No! No! No! No!” Then imagine being respectfully yet forcefully guided towards the cliff, all while pitifully trying to hold firm to a spot that once felt so secure.
In the midst of a grandiose pity party for 1, The Lord calmly and slowly replies:
“You are going to have to jump off this ledge.”
“But Lord!? I like my perch. I’ve found a cozy spot over here, and I don’t want to move from it. This has been a good thing. I’ve really enjoyed this. Please don’t take this from me.”
Circumstances beyond my control have since snatched that ledge out from underneath me and I’m humbled, hurt, a little embarrassed, furious at the actions of others, and overwhelmingly exhausted.
I don’t want to change jobs. I’m not looking for added chaos in my life.
I’m not interested in being the reason we adjust our budget again.
As I lay awake in bed, confused and emotional, a story came to my mind.
John 11. The death of Lazarus.
Jesus hears about a dear friend, Lazarus, becoming quite ill, yet he doesn’t hurry to this family’s rescue. Lazarus actually ends up dying, and still, Jesus doesn’t rush. When he does make it to the family’s home in Bethany, the body has been buried for four days. Both Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, approach Jesus separately and say “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Verses 21 & 32). I imagine these words were said through choked sobs and tear-stained faces. They knew Jesus loved their brother, they believed in his power and knew he could have changed the outcome of their circumstances.
Mary and Martha had to walk through the process of burying their brother, without Jesus there to rescue, heal, or impart comfort and wisdom. Their trusted teacher was absent in their great time of need.
Jesus obeyed the commands of his father and waited before going to Bethany. He knew the plans God had for him there, but that didn’t change his soft heart towards his friends.
“…He was deeply moved” (vs 33)
When their teacher came, he was compassionate, and upset to the point of weeping. To me, this is a stunning example of how he cares in a way that no other ‘god’ can compare. He knew the final outcome would be glorious as he was about to resurrect his buddy and blow everyone’s minds, yet he cared enough to hurt with them.
He wept with them.
He didn’t tell them to ‘toughen up’ or ‘God’s got this girl, it’ll all work itself out.’ He didn’t casually side hug with a cool ‘Praying for you!’ while briskly walking away.
What brings me to tears is knowing that my Jesus, Mary and Martha’s Jesus, your Jesus, sat down and wept. He didn’t walk away, he didn’t act casual. He got all up in their mess, bawled his eyes out and said. “You know what? This is awful. I hate that you’re hurting like this. I love you.”
It means everything to me that my God hurts with me. I may not get the answers I want, or in the timely manner I deem appropriate, but John 11 reminds me that he hasn’t forgotten us. He knows what is going on in our homes and work places. He knows what is around the corner. He knows we are confused, but as our Good Father, he is orchestrating things, unknown to us, as we walk through times of testing. In my ESV notes, I love how verses 5 – 6 are explained “Jesus stayed two days longer: he allowed his friends to go through the mourning of Lazarus because he loved them and wanted them to witness an amazing demonstration of Jesus’ power over death… The Lord does not always answer prayers as expected.”
I think the Lord is reminding me of this passage, because like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus; Jesus loves our families deeply, too. He has heard our requests, we can rest in the knowledge that our cries have not fallen silent.
Right now, I find myself in a free fall, but with a parachute attached. It’s my choice to open it and take part in the ride. It’s my choice to ask for help and seek out advice from others. I need to seize this opportunity and scale back, dial in, s l o w d o w n.
I can’t control the actions of others. Or the outcomes of their actions. But I can run to greet my savior. I can wait for an answer, remembering that he knows my situation. I can be reassured that he has compassion, and hurts with me.
So here I am, humbled, a little frustrated, pretty tired, and vulnerably wondering if you want to walk this out with me. There are a few specific areas in my life I am going to work on this summer. The next couple months I’m going to do my best to honestly share my need for simple beauty amidst this life’s chaos.
In the mean time, I’d love to hear your experiences, too.
Has the Lord pushed you into something that seemed all wrong at the time? And if you’ve completed that trial or time of testing, how did things look afterward?
Was there a time the Lord felt absent during your need? How did you deal with that?