Sometimes there can be nothing more painful in life than to wait.
Waiting rooms are never happy places. When you sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, you’re generally irritated that despite making an appointment for 11, it’ll be 11:30 before you actually see a doctor. Hospital waiting rooms are worse, because you’re generally there while waiting to hear if a loved one’s going to make it or not.
The “waiting rooms” of life are painful as well. Some of you reading this are waiting hard on God to make a difference in a particular area of life. Some of you are waiting on God for a job. Others of you are waiting on God for healing. Some of you feel like you’re waiting on God to give help with an addiction, while others of us are waiting on God to bring restoration. Some of you are like me and you’d love to be married, but you feel like you’re waiting on God for a spouse. Honestly, in the midst of all these situations it often feels like God’s running late.
Reading through today’s passage, I’ve got to think that no one felt that more than Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Jesus had a relationship with these guys. They weren’t just faces in the crowd to him. And what’s more, Jesus didn’t just know them… he loved them, as John points out several times at the beginning of the chapter. So, when word is sent to Jesus that Lazarus is sick, we’d expect for him to either head to Lazarus to heal him or to just heal him on the spot, right?
Wrong. “So when [Jesus] heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:6).
That must be a typo. The Bible almost establishes this cause-and-effect thing here. Because Lazarus was sick, Jesus decided to stay where he was for two more days. And what’s worse, the Bible doesn’t record Jesus doing some cool, amazing thing while he was waiting around. It doesn’t seem like Jesus was in the middle of anything. He just sat and did nothing. While that seems strange, that feeling is probably strangely familiar for those of us in the waiting room of life. You pray, you go to church, you read the Bible, you do STRONG cards, and nothing. God seemingly does nothing.
Eventually, Jesus makes his way to Bethany, but Lazarus has died. In fact, he’s been dead for four days. Can you imagine the pain that Mary and Martha had to feel talking to Jesus? They knew he could have done something. They had seen him heal blind people, open the ears of the deaf, and had even heard of his ability to bring dead people back to life. It wasn’t that he couldn’t, it was that he apparently didn’t. How would that have made you feel?
But all that only set the stage for what would happen next. Jesus would ask for the stone to be rolled away and then get to work. Can you imagine the shock on the faces of the people present when Lazarus came forth from the tomb? It had to feel like a first-century version of The Walking Dead. Seriously? Did Jesus just do that? And the rest, as they say, is history.
So what’s the point for us in this story? I think there are several. For one, an apparent lack of action on God’s part in our lives is not evidence he hates us, disapproves of us, or is disappointed with us. In fact, quite the opposite. In this story, we see that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. His apparent inaction wasn’t a sign of disproval, but rather of a different plan altogether.
I think that’s the most important point for us to see. When God is late, it’s often because there’s somewhere else he wants to work. Jesus healing Lazarus would have been cool. But the way the situation unfolded here in John wasn’t just cool, it was miraculous. Could it be that in the waiting room God is wanting to develop us? Could it be that God is preparing us? At the ripe old age of 25, I’ve already been able to see that the waiting rooms in my life have always been great to develop something in me that may not have happened otherwise. Honestly, though, sometimes the reasons may never be known. But whatever happens, don’t allow yourself to equate God’s silence with his absence. He is at work. Sometimes, it’s just having the faith to really trust that when God appears to be running late.