By Brooke Holt
"Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ 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 11:1-4
Years ago, Garth Brooks had a famous song entitled “Unanswered Prayers”. It is a beautiful song with a powerful message, a message that many in the Christian community questioned and challenged. These Christians were concerned with the message Garth was conveying to the world. In their understanding, no prayers went unheard or unanswered by the Lord. There is certainly truth to their view; however, Garth Brooks was trying to convey sometimes God answers prayers in ways we don’t understand or appreciate. The refrain of the song states “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”. God, in his infinite wisdom and love, answers prayers according to his perfect plans and purposes. The Lord knows what is truly best; whereas we are often focused on what feels good and right for the moment.
We see this dilemma in John 11. Lazarus has become fatally ill, and his sisters send word to Jesus hoping Jesus will come and cure their brother. Jesus receives the message; tells his disciples that this illness will not lead to death but to the glory of God; and then remains right where he is. Jesus fully understands the severity of Lazarus’ situation, knows Lazarus will die, but he also knows this provides a divine opportunity for a miracle.
Jesus waits two days before heading to Bethany. How crushed Mary and Martha must have felt as they had their hope set on Jesus. They loved and trusted Jesus, and they knew that Jesus loved and cherished them as friends and disciples. Why the delay? Why did they have to feel the sting of death?
You know this story. Jesus does come after Lazarus has been in the grave for four days. Is he too late? Not according to the Lord’s plan and purpose for Jesus comes at just the right time to do something Mary, Martha, and those who gathered to mourn Lazarus could have never expected or imagined. Jesus will use his miraculous power to raise Lazarus from the dead, and his glory will be revealed in a much greater way than if he simply healed Lazarus of his sickness.
God’s ways are not always easy or understandable, but his ways are always good. All prayers are answered prayers in God’s economy. As Garth sang, sometimes the “no’s” of God end up being his greatest gifts. What divine opportunities await you today?
How do you respond to God’s delays or when he denies your request? Are you able to surrender and trust him, knowing that he alone has the infinite wisdom and understanding that you lack and that matched with that wisdom and understanding is his perfect love for you? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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