Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why does God make me wait?

This year Ben and I decided to read the New Testament together, and it's been a very enlightening experience.  I've seen stories of the Savior in an entirely new light, and I enjoy discussing His teachings together.  A few weeks ago we read the story of when Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. It's a familiar story; Lazarus falls ill, his sisters tell Christ to come and heal him, but Christ gets there a few days after Lazarus has already died and been buried.  Christ commands him to come forth from the tomb, and Lazarus walks out, very much alive.  Of the 3 instances when Christ raises someone from death, this is probably the most famous, and the most miraculous to anyone who witnessed it. On the previous occasions of raising someone from the dead, a non-believer might be able to rationalize that the people presumed dead were in fact not dead, and that they had conspired with Christ to pretend in order to make people think that He had power, or they might assume that the spirit had come back to the body of it's own accord, and that Jesus simply got lucky. In this instance however, Lazarus had not only been pronounced dead, but had been that way for days. Nothing short of the Master's voice could command his spirit to re-enter his body.

However, when I read this story a few weeks ago, I thought a lot about how Lazarus and his sisters must have felt leading up to this ordeal. Put yourself in Lazarus' shoes: you have been following and serving Christ from the very start of his ministry, you are personal friends with Him, and you have seen Him perform miracles countless of times; you KNOW that He can heal you, and you're pretty certain that because you are so close to Christ, He will do it without hesitation. 

But for some reason, things don't go the way you think they will. When your sister goes to tell Christ that you're deathly ill, He doesn't come right away.  Christ, who is omniscient and knows all (and therefore knows that you will soon die) waits several days before even starting His journey to come and see you. Why would He do that?  Is He perhaps upset with you? Have you done something wrong?  Are you not worthy of a miracle? Your prayers seem to go unanswered. 

Now put yourself in Martha's and Mary's shoes.  You're brother has died. You already did everything you could to help him, including leaving his side and traveling to ask Christ to come to heal him. Despite all of your prayers and pleadings, Christ not only didn't come in time, but He chose to be too late. You've seen Him bring people back from the dead before, so maybe He will bring your brother back...if He get's here in time.  But too much time has passed to wait anymore, and you bury your brother. He's dead, and you have to accept that. You might be asking yourself why didn't Christ answer your prayer. You still believe in Him, but you are confused as to why He would heal complete strangers as soon as they show a spark of faith, but for you, who know him personally, He didn't come. Did you just not have enough faith?  Maybe His blessings just aren't meant for you...

Now, obviously, I have no way of knowing if this is how Lazarus and his sisters felt, but if they did, I could completely relate to those feelings. I have felt them before, but under different circumstances.  I've felt the despair of having done everything I could, and the blessing I've been praying for just never comes. I've asked myself if maybe I've just not done enough, or if I'm not righteous enough, or if God chooses not to hear me, even though I have been doing my best to keep my covenants and promises to Him. 

So in the instance of Lazarus, why did Christ wait?  After reading the entire story, we know it was because this was to be one of the most amazing displays of His power in the scriptures.  Christ loved Lazarus so much, that He saved one of His biggest miracles to be used on him, and so that Lazarus could know without a doubt that his blessings come from the grace of God, and not from anything that man could do. At least one of the purposes of the wait was so that Lazarus could know just how important he really was to Christ.

What an honor! To be chosen to come back from the dead to testify of Christ, and to be the subject of one of His greatest miracles!  After the story is over, we cannot doubt that Jesus truly loved Lazarus and his sisters, and that they were indeed very special to him (not to mention righteous and full of faith). 

So what does this mean for us?  If we have been doing everything in our power to keep the commandments and honor our covenants, and yet we haven't received the blessings we think we need, does that mean we are simply not worthy?  No.  The most likely reason is that Christ is waiting so that when we receive the relief, it is truly a miracle, and it glorifies His name. It means that He trusts us to continue to be faithful throughout the "despair" period (like the 4 days that Lazarus was in the tomb, yet his sisters still believed that Christ could raise him if He wanted to).  He knows you and loves you, and because of how righteous and faithful you are, He wants your miracles to be unmistakable.  That means that you have to wait. It doesn't make the waiting easy, but you can rest assured that He is aware of you and that your faith and efforts are recognized. 

This realization came to me because at the time we read this story, Ben had been turned down for a job. A job we really needed. We moved across the state believing we would get it, and he made it all the way to the last round of interviews, just to be told that they chose the other guy. We felt totally lost. Wasn't God listening to our prayers? We needed this job for multiple reasons, and now we were back at square one, but with less options. I felt a lot like I imagined  Lazarus and his sisters felt. Had I not prayed enough?  Maybe I hadn't been studying enough in my scriptures. Maybe God wanted me to sweat a little just because "it's good for me".  

But then again, maybe not. Maybe God was making me wait because Ben's job needed to be inspired. Once the idea of where to apply came to us (in the middle of praying by the way), everything fell into place almost as if God had planned it out himself...and  I come to think of it, He probably did.  In the last several days everything has suddenly made sense. All of the job rejections, us feeling the need to move to our new house even though we didn't have a job secured yet, and even the difficult financial situation it put us into has all made sense. But not in a "wow, that was a really lucky coincidence" kind of sense, but more of a "wow, God had it all planned out the entire time" kind of sense. I feel so blessed and loved.

I know that God is a God of love, and that He never makes us go through something hard for no reason. He doesn't make us wait out of bitterness or rejection. He makes us wait only because He wants us to receive certain blessings only when they will be the most beneficial to us. He knows what is best for us, even if we don't understand or agree at the moment. God loves you, and He is excited to bless you and make miracles happen in your life.  

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