This week on the blog we have talked about God compassion for the hurting.

If you go back and read the past two posts (which you should because they are great), they will give you an idea of the essence of God’s compassion. He weeps for our hurts and is driven to respond to them with warmth and care.  

But all of us at points in our lives may think that’s not how God responds, if He even responds at all.

You might think, well if God’s heart is compassionate, why doesn’t he do something about what I’m going through right now? Or what my parents are going through? Or why won’t he heal my sick friend?  

If God is compassionate, why does he let trials and illness and hurt to persist? What’s he waiting for? What’s he doing? Doesn’t he know we’re struggling and why won’t he do something about it?

That’s exactly the response Martha and Mary had in the story we looked at two days ago, about Jesus’ resurrection of Lazarus.

In the story, Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that Lazarus is dying. Jesus had a strong relationship with these three siblings and cared for them deeply.

For most of us, when we hear a loved one is sick and near death, our response is to drop everything to go visit them. But that’s not exactly what Jesus did. Let’s look at the text:  

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. When therefore He heard that he was sick, He stayed then two days longer in the place where He was.” John 11:5

What’s that? Jesus stayed longer? Mary and Martha had the same thought.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32

So why did Jesus wait then?

My thought is that Jesus has a bigger picture view, a greater amount of healing, restoration and life in store for those who are hurting than they can understand or even imagine.

He knows exactly what He is doing the whole time, so He is not afraid to let pain persist longer than we want it to to achieve the greater, deeper work of healing—healing of our wounded hearts not just bodies and healing of the way we view God.  

Imagine if Jesus had gone and healed Lazarus before He died. Then those involved would not have witnessed the full resurrection power of God. Jesus would have also bypassed an opportunity to increase Mary, Martha and Lazarus’ faith.  

Halfway through the story of Lazarus, when Martha shares with Jesus how she wished He had come sooner, she also says she knows that God will do whatever Jesus asked.

Jesus responds by saying “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?” John 11:25

There are a few things I want to unpack in this. First, Jesus is our hope. He is himself resurrection and life. Jesus is God’s compassionate response to every terrible thing that happens in this world.

A reinterpretation of the line “the one who believes in me will live, even though they die,” could be “the one who hopes in Jesus as God’s compassionate response to their trials and sorrows will find the peace, hope and joy they are seeking, even when their circumstances are terrible, even when those circumstances don’t change.”

Second, Jesus asks us to believe and trust Him enough that we would take steps of faith to see the healing and life Jesus wants to happen actually happen, even if those steps seem stupid.

Continuing with the story of Lazarus, Jesus, Martha and Mary are standing at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus looks at Martha and asks her to take a step of faith — ”Take away the stone,” He says.

“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.” John 11:39

In other words, she says “Jesus that’s a silly idea. He’s already dead. I’m going to look stupid or crazy with grief doing that because all I can imagine happening is the foul odor of death escaping the tomb.”

Jesus then reminds her to believe and trust in who He is.

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40

God has a history of increasing His children’s faith by asking them to do things they wouldn’t normally do. I think of Moses raising his staff to show He believed God could part the Red Sea. Or Noah who built a boat when no rain was in sight because He believed God was going to send the flood He said He was going to send.

God wants us to believe and trust Him. God may allow pain or sorrow to persist, so that you can, not just know, but experience and understand a part of who He is and so He can heal you even more deeply than you ever thought possible.   

Author | Lindsey Conway