In Your Trials, Trust God

emptytombA cancer diagnosis took me completely by surprise 12 years ago. I was perfectly healthy and had no risk factors. I was processing my questions with a mature Christian friend when she said, “It’s almost a compliment, don’t you think?” She was saying that God had allowed this trial and that he knew I would be faithful.

I wasn’t so sure.

Have you ever wondered what God is doing or where he is in a difficult situation? We are not the only ones who have struggled with God’s apparent absence. In fact, we are in good company.

Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus were good friends, but Jesus wasn’t there when they needed him most.

When Jesus Didn’t Heal

Most of us remember the story of task oriented Martha getting frustrated with Mary who couldn’t tear herself away from Jesus’s teaching. (Luke 10:38-42) Later they were at a dinner with Jesus, and we see a similar portrayal of their personalities:

Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” (John 12:2-3)

In between those two episodes their brother Lazarus died.

Lazarus was desperately sick, and his sisters sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3). They knew that Jesus had healed countless people; surely they thought that Jesus would heal their much loved brother. But, Jesus was a surprising no-show.

Jesus didn’t heal him.

When Jesus didn’t arrive the first day, they might have been thinking that he got held up somehow. The second day, they were probably puzzled – maybe even angry.

Martha’s first words upon seeing Jesus, after Lazarus had been dead four days, were “Lord…if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). Mary said the same thing when she greeted Jesus

Trust God’s Plan 

We know what Mary and Martha didn’t know. Jesus knew exactly what he was going to do, and that “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory…” (John 11:4). He waited on purpose.

Martha and Mary would have no doubt appreciated some communication to ease their minds, explain the delay, and reassure them that Lazarus would be alright. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus rarely does that.

When I had cancer it would have been nice if God had let me know what to expect right away, but he didn’t. Like everyone else I waited for test results and doctor’s appointments, endured treatment, prayed and trusted. I knew God was with me – of that he had assured me – but that’s about all I knew.

God’s plan is perfect, and he has no obligation to update us with the details. Therefore we trust him.

Focus on what You Know

When Martha said that Lazarus would be alive if Jesus had been there, Jesus gave her no explanation but said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha, knowing her theology, said that she knew that Lazarus would rise again at the last day. When Jesus responded with the familiar verse, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…“, Martha proclaimed that Jesus was the “Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” She was sure of that.

Mary also greeted Jesus with the fact that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death, and then she wept at Jesus’s feet. Mary’s emotional response was just as stirring as Martha’s excellent theology, and Jesus was “deeply moved.” He wept (John 11:35).

These two women knew Jesus, they loved him, and they knew what he had taught them. Yet God used their brother’s illness and death, knowing it would bring them devastating grief, to demonstrate Jesus’s power over death.

I don’t know if my cancer was in any way a compliment, but I believe that God had allowed it for his purpose. I knew he was in it, that he had a plan, and all I could do was to trust him. It was enough.

For the Glory of God

“Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!'” (John 11:43) And he did. The buzz would have been deafening around Bethany; “Did you hear about Lazarus – he had been dead for four days and Jesus raised him!” God was glorified through this miracle.

Lazarus’s resurrection brought glory to God, but it was just a shadow of what would happen soon. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus had been in the works since the beginning of time, and the day was coming when Jesus would glorify God on the cross.

God chose Mary, Martha and Lazarus to play difficult parts in Lazarus’s God glorifying resurrection. They grieved, they wondered, they might even have been angry, but they remained faithful. I’m sure this trial strengthened their faith for what was coming.

Will You Trust Him?

Yes, the outcome could have been different. I’m very grateful I am cancer free to this day. This miracle gives me confidence that even when God doesn’t answer our prayers like we desire, Jesus will eventually raise us to glorious eternal life with him. Lazarus eventually died (again!) on this earth, as did Mary and Martha. Someday we will too. But Jesus raised Lazarus as a sign that he will one day raise us all.

This story teaches me that Jesus knows exactly what he is doing, even when we don’t know the details, and that our trials are meant to bring God glory. What about you? Will you trust him in your trials?

Post Credit: Open the Bible

6 thoughts on “In Your Trials, Trust God

Add yours

  1. Thanks, Judy, for reminding me/us that He has reasons that we need not know and understand today, but ‘tomorrow’ His plan will come to fruition! I’m trusting in His plan today!

  2. God allowed me to survive and be healed from cancer now for 17 yrs, but He did not allow my husband to live when he was stricken at home. I did ask why – He was a good husband and father, a faithful man, and although a tough guy on the outside had a heart for God, God healed me why not my husband…I am still not sure of God’s plan but I trust Him. God knew what was going to happen, He sent His Son ahead of me to prepare me for this sudden loss. I can go on and on with everything God provided for me during that time and still today. You wrote “God chose Mary, Martha and Lazarus to play difficult parts in Lazarus’s God glorifying resurrection. They grieved, they wondered, they might even have been angry, but they remained faithful. I’m sure this trial strengthened their faith for what was coming.” God chose me, my family and Tom to play difficult and different parts that displayed God’s glory and eternal life. I will always grieve but I have the promise of resurrected power and eternal life. He raised Lazarus and He will raise all of us. In a way there is beauty in death – the beauty of God’s glory.
    Yes, Jesus knew what He was doing when He delayed going to Lazarus and He knew God’s plan when my husband passed away. Just like He was there comforting Martha and Mary He was comforting me and just like He raised Lazarus from the grave, Jesus raised my husband to eternal life.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Patty. Most of us don’t fully understand the difficulties we face in this world, but you are so right that God is present, gives us comfort, peace and love in our confusion and grief. Beautifully said, Patty.

  3. Jesus did not deliberately wait for Lazarus to die – he and his disciples were simply too far away to respond in time. John says they were outside the area of Judeah, probably down in the Jordan Valley as in the previous chapter. If it took the messenger from Bethany 2 days to reach Jesus, and Jesus 2 days to get back, you have the 4 days since Lazarus death accounted for. The likelihood is that Lazarus died shortly after the message was sent to Jesus, and therefore had died long before Jesus heard he was ill.
    This has always seemed important to me. Jesus was not forced to do the unthinkable and deliberately hang around waiting for his friend to die, but God had arranged the timing of events to achieve his purpose.

    1. John 11:5-6 says, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” This leads me to believe that Jesus knew what was going to happen, whatever the timing. Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, that is for sure, and I believe he had confidence that they could handle it. It was quite a compliment. Thanks for your comment – God arranged the timing, and Jesus took his direction from God.

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