It is a normal day, you answer the phone, and in an instant everything changes. “There’s been an accident,” “it’s malignant,” “I’ve been laid off,” “I’m sorry, the ultrasound revealed a problem,” “she attempted suicide,” “there was a fire,” “your child was molested,” “your son has been arrested.” First comes the surreal moment when you think this is not really happening and then the landslide of reality crashes in. “Oh God, no!” As your hands begin trembling you know it is real.
You pray. You pray hard. You pray on your knees. You cry while you pray, you plead, you bargain, and then… then our heart gets revealed. If nothing changes or improves, we get angry. We get furious. We get depressed. We get to our grief and then either find a way to not feel anymore, which keeps us stuck; or grieve deeply taking our real heart questions to God: both our belief and unbelief. That is what most of us are terrified to do and that is precisely what God wants more than anything; our hearts.
There is this disturbing and wonderful story that has helped me in such times.
In the Bible in John chapter 11, is a story where two sisters, Mary and Martha had a brother named Lazarus who became very ill. They were personal friends of Jesus, whom had been healing people from all kinds of illnesses. Jesus was in another city more than a day or two away and the sisters sent a message to him saying Lazarus, “whom you love” is ill.
Their message reminds me of my prayers sometimes in a crisis. “God, I know you love this person, please heal them.” I remind God of how loving He is and how much this person needs healing. Then I live with the hope that something will improve and the dread that nothing will. What gets revealed about my heart at times like this is that I become angry with God when He does not do what I want with the people I love the most. The bottom line is, I trust my love for them more than I trust God’s.
A very important statement in this story that some Bible translations miss is in verse 5-6.
It says, “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.” Jesus actually stayed away long enough for Lazarus to die instead of coming to rescue him. Why would that be loving? How could that be loving? “God, how could you let my son or daughter or spouse or friend go through this?”
In her anger Martha asked Jesus something very similar and because she revealed her true heart, in that moment Jesus revealed Himself fully to her for the first time. When I am vulnerable with God, I am being intimate with God. And when that happens, I discover it is my heart being raised from the dead.
Jesus did something much more than save Lazarus’ life. He raised Lazarus from the dead, opening many people’s hearts to believe that He was the Son of God and brought life to many people.
Often, I have found that when one of my children suffers it is not just about the journey they are on, but mine as well.
When God does not rescue you or people you love from pain, go to Him with your anger or hurt or fear or whatever the truth of your open heart is. You may find that God wants to do more than simply rescue this person. God may actually do something we never thought possible, both for them and for our own doubting heart.