Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

I like honest conversations.

And I love the fact that God’s shoulders are big enough to handle our intellectual, emotional, and theological struggles. It’s why I am so drawn to the death of Lazarus (John 11).

On a holiday where billions will celebrate Jesus’ ultimate victory over death, I am reminded of the painful reality of living in the gap between the promises of God and realization of those promises.

Here’s the summary. The gospel writer goes out of his way to emphasize that Jesus loves Lazarus and his family. They were very well-acquainted with the healing reputation of the Messiah. By John 11 Lazarus is sick. Playing their friendship card, his sisters send word to Jesus, informing Him of Lazarus’ condition. You know, do your thing, Lord. Much to everybody’s surprise, Jesus does NOT come. Jesus does NOT heal. And Lazarus dies.

There’s the tension.

You could have stopped this. You could have fixed this. You could have prevented this. You could have intervened before bad became worse. And yet You did not. You stopped death for others; You prevented disaster for others; You saved the day for others. And yet You left us hanging. (And you love us?)

What do you do when God leaves you hanging?

It’s the question that has haunted me in recent years. Why? My God, my God, why? I’ve even invented my own angst-filled question-like emoji for my prayer journal in my moments of particular frustration. Why not me? Why not us? Why not help my child? Why not heal my sickness? Why aren’t you showing up? My God, my God, why?

If You would have been here, my brother would still be alive.

As the grieving sister Martha laid out her complaint to the Lord, Jesus made a promise: Your brother will rise again. To which she responded with a declaration of orthodox, albeit abstract piety:  I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. But somehow we’ve all felt the impotent effects of intangible theology divorced from real life.

I was recently in a conversation  with a precious Muslim refugee. As the dialogue turned to the hope of life after death and my faith in Jesus, her response to my predictable evangelical pie in the sky was convicting: “To be honest with you, my deepest longing is for peace on earth. Is there any hope for salaam? My family is stuck in a war zone.” Great question.

Jesus, my brother is dead, and our hearts are broken. Is there any hope for peace on earth? I suppose I affirm the doctrine of a distant resurrection, but is there hope for broken hearts on earth? Lord, you’re too late.

And then Jesus drops the bomb. I am the resurrection.

I am.

I’m not sure why it means so much to me, but it has become one of the defining realities of my journey with God. Every time it feels like God is disappointing us with delay or disappointment (or silence!), you can be sure of this: He is about to reveal something new about Himself. I am the resurrection. I am the healer of broken hearts. I am the author of peace on earth (yes on earth) and goodwill toward humans. I’m actually starting to realize the gifts of God are great, but God himself is better.

Why does He allow death? Why the unresolved tension? Why are so many of us waiting in the valley of delay? I’m not sure. But I know this: He is creating a people stronger than death. Stronger than disappointment. Stronger than circumstance. He has a love stronger than the grave. He rules a kingdom that can NOT be shaken. Everything down here on earth is shakeable, which is why the plan has always been to bring up there down here. On earth as it is in heaven. Envy is shakeable. Comparison is shakeable. Worry is shakeable. Health is shakeable. But not Him. Not His kingdom. And not His people.

But my brother is dead, Lord. Not for long.

This weekend reminds me that it’s never too late. It’s never too hard. It’s never beyond his scope. It’s never beyond his reach. It’s never out of his control.

I thought it was game over. But it’s only Friday; Sunday’s coming.

See you at the Odome.

4 Replies to “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

  1. Absolutely true! The witness of God’s Spirit is real. The healing in my soul and body is real. The Odome was heaven come to earth today. Wouldn’t have been anywhere else by God’s grace.

  2. I actually asked the same question recently, especially when praying for my family and others. In fact, when having lunch with a friend this week I asked how do I know what to pray for someone in a difficult situation. What if God doesn’t heal? Why not them.

    And then yesterday when putting on Dora and friends for Ariella on YouTube a recommended video came up. It was from a known prophet and deliverance ministry man from Nigeria who I’ve watched from time to time. The title: Does God Hear My prayers?

    To hear him articulate such an awesome answer that your post reminded me of when you write, “You know the gifts of God are great, but God Himself is better.” He articulates something similar and through his sermon and your post I hear the invitation to draw nearer to Father’s heart. I hear the invitation to find rest for my soul in Him alone. I hear the invitation to incline my ear to hear His will and heartbeat in every earthly situation and to pray accordingly…partnering with HIM to bring heaven down to earth.

    Thanks for your sharing, P. Mike. It’s such a timely word in more ways than one. So thankful for how HE speaks and longs to commune with us. These series of confirmations, especially after I feel pause in my Spirit after starting to pray for a friend who has financial problems that God may be up to something even in her trial, that I long to have His mind as I intercede to join in with him in asking for people’s greatest needs that can sometimes only be spiritually discerned.

    Sometimes the greatest need is not what they are asking for at all. Sometimes it’s simply knowing Him for whom it’s… > > ” > …never too late. It’s never too hard. It’s never beyond his scope. It’s never beyond his reach. It’s never out of his control.” >

    Indeed, Sunday is on it’s way, proclaiming what we thought was dead is merely sleeping for the Ressurection, Himself who can raise any situation up for good.

    Love you and your family, P. Mike!

    Marissa

    PS: Here’s the sermon: https://youtu.be/-17HMJbWH3c

    > >

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Ugh yes yes yes!!!! I’m so thankful for you facing these hard topics with such authenticity and grace. The tension is real and can be incredibly disheartening at times. But Jesus. He is so good and steadfast. He always wins. Thank you for reminding us of it’s never too hard and never beyond his scope!!!!!!! Amen!!!!!

  4. T.D. Jake’s book (WHY because your annoited) If jesus did not call lazurus by name then all the dead would arise because of the power and potency of God
    Submission + Suffering + Obedience + Praise = ANNOITED
    and because satan knows that your heart belongs to christ you are no longer for the taking however just as he hurts God by stealing his children and hurting his saints where we have allowed a hold known or unknown this is how satan goes after his annoited people especially his Apostles and Prophets. I read somewhere that the reason abortion is such a problem is satan is trying to kill the Five Fold Ministers before the are even born but God has hid us away for such a time as this and the ones that have survived are very very strong in the Lord and will not relent till heaven is on earth.

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