The Lord's Love in Delay
The opposite of love is hatred. The words associated with love are happiness, joy and comfort. On the other hand, hate is associated with words such as pain suffering and anger.
Yet, we often collocate love and suffering together. We find it strange that someone who loves someone else would allow them to suffer.
Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus, and this family was loved by Jesus. At sometime, Lazarus fell grievously ill. Since the family knew that Jesus was a healer, they had sent for Jesus. Lazarus died sometime between the time Jesus received the message and Jesus started his journey to see Lazarus. It is odd for most of us that Jesus delayed his journey to save Lazarus and that He could have done more sooner.
Many of us will ask why Jesus allowed Lazarus to suffer for as long as he did. We also wonder how Jesus could let Lazarus' family suffer as they did. Presumably the family would have spent money on medicine and doctors. They also would have been worrying and feeling the pain of a loved suffering for such a long time.
Most Christians have a belief that once someone walks faithfully with the Lord, we will be exempted from problems or suffering. We may believe that our suffering is because we have done something wrong. We also tend to believe that when problems come, we call on to the Lord to solve the problems and those problems will go away. This does not always happen.
Here are three points on why God allows us to suffer and delay exhibiting His love to us.
1. God may allow long suffering in our lives to allow us to establish our faith in Him.
But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
John 11:4 ESV
Martha and Mary had an understanding that was limited in his physical presence.
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
John 11:21 ESV
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
John 11:32 ESV
Jesus knew that He had to show Martha and her family who Jesus was. Jesus had to shake up their faith to prove and show who He was and what He was capable of doing. They had to learn that the love of Jesus is not limited by their situation or His physical presence.
Most believers share the opinion that when things are going well, God is on our side. God's love remains forever in the good times and in the bad times. Our situation does not reflect God's love for us.
the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Jeremiah 31:3 ESV
2. The Lord's delay to intervene may be done for the greater good.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
John 11:14-15 ESV
Jesus revealed to the disciples that he did not heal Lazarus sooner so that they could get benefit from the delayed healing.
We understand that at the time of this story Jesus was in the region of Judea and Jesus had almost been stoned. The disciples did not want to expose themselves to any danger. Jesus was training them to face their fears.
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
John 11:9-10 ESV
We know that Jesus is the light of the world and where Jesus is there is light. The disciples needed to face their fears of the persecutors and death. The family suffered but the disciples learned that Jesus can raise the dead and nothing happens unless Jesus permits it. Jesus knew that this was important for the disciples to be trained in understanding that Jesus was truly God.
When we lack and people minister to us, this is an opportunity to glorify God. We may never know who is benefiting from our sufferings, but God is perfect and others can benefit. God is not sadistic and does not have plans to destroy us. Rather, God will gives us His grace, and He will sustain us. We may not realize this, but God will take care of us even when we are suffering.
3. Sometimes God allows us to suffer because we need to focus on the final resurrection.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
John 11:25 ESV
As a Christian the number one thing we need to focus on is the resurrection. We must lift our hope and thoughts on the resurrection which can never be taken away from us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 ESV
Whatever our situation is, God loves us. We may be suffering, but that suffering has a purpose and a season. Let us continue t focus on Jesus and the resurrection and be confident that God is good.