Tag Archive | disappointment

Why did Jesus not come? (part 2)

Mary and Martha are disappointed with Jesus

Jesus eventually does come – but he’s too late. Lazarus has died. And of course the sisters are disappointed. Martha goes to meet Jesus when she hears he is coming and she says to him, ˜Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’.

Those words portray her faith in the power of Jesus – she knew that he could have saved Lazarus – but they also portray her disappointment that he didn’t come earlier.

Mary meets Jesus next and she says exactly the same words to Jesus: ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’. Both sisters had wanted only one thing – one thing that they knew Jesus could give them – but he didn’t give it to them.

The fact that Jesus doesn’t do what we expect does not mean that He doesn’t care

We see the humanity of Jesus in this story in a way which we don’t see often in the New Testament. “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see’. Jesus wept….Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.” There are just a few other places in the NT where we read of Jesus being troubled: in John 12 his soul was troubled as he contemplated the cross; and in John 13 he was troubled as he contemplated his betrayal. Here he is ‘greatly troubled’ and ‘deeply moved’ when he sees the sorrow and grief of his dear friends.

So it wasn’t that he didn’t care about what had happened to them. When Jesus saw them weeping, he was deeply moved and greatly troubled. When he went to the tomb, he wept. Death was not how it was meant to be. God never intended that we would have to stand by the graves of our loved ones. When we weep, he weeps with us. He is moved by our sorrow and he is troubled by our grief. Isaiah 53 tells us ‘Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’. 

Somehow that helps a lot. To realise that Jesus does come and that He does care, even though He doesn’t do what we expect Him to, brings me comfort and reassurance. He weeps with us. The fact that He doesn’t do what we expect Him to is not because He doesn’t love us.

Jesus is up to something far greater than we can imagine

Jesus was up to something far greater than the sisters or anyone else could imagine that day. When he had heard that Lazarus was sick, this is what 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.’ What did he mean – this illness does not lead to death? Of course it led to death – Lazarus was in the grave. But Jesus was going to raise him from the dead – and God was going to be glorified.

Then, as they stood at the tomb and Jesus asked them to take away the stone, Martha, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor’. But Jesus asked her: ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ That was it – it was all about the glory of God that day.

Jesus could have gone right away, as soon as he heard that Lazarus was sick, and could have healed him. He healed many people when he was on earth and Lazarus could have been just one more. But because he loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, he waited – and then did something far greater for them. He didn’t just heal Lazarus – he raised him from the dead. He allowed this family to witness an amazing demonstration of his power over death – for he is, as he said, ‘the resurrection and the life’. He wanted them to see his glory, to witness his power, to know for sure that he had conquered death – forever.

(If you want to read part 1, click here)

 

 

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Why did Jesus not come? (part 1)

Why did it have to be this way? Why did Jesus not come?

My dad died last year after suffering from a particularly distressing form of dementia. He had loved and served God all of his life. The end of his life was hard. There was confusion, there were hallucinations, there was loss of mobility, added to loss of eyesight and loss of hearing. At the end, he didn’t know us any more. Somehow this was not how I expected it to be. How could a man who loved God end his days like this? How could God leave him to die like this? Why didn’t God answer my prayers for him? Why did Jesus not come? As my dad was dying, I just couldn’t deal with my questions. So I put them in a box and put the lid on. I told myself that it was OK to have questions which I had no answers to – because God was God and I wasn’t.

But in the year after his death, I began to realise that, while I had put my questions in a box and closed the lid on them, they had impacted by relationship with God. Yes I still trusted Him – but I wasn’t sure what He would do next. Maybe I wasn’t really sure that I could trust Him. Or at least I couldn’t trust the God I thought I knew.

For several months, I was drawn back again and again to the story of Lazarus in John 11.

Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus

At the very beginning of this story, the sisters of Lazarus sent a message to Jesus saying ‘He whom you love is ill’. That puts the story in the context of a relationship. This was a man whom Jesus knew and loved. And he was ill.

Furthermore, the story goes on to say ‘Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus’. So this was a whole family whom Jesus loved. In fact, we have more than one instance in the New Testament when we read of Jesus staying in their home in Bethany. He was a friend of this family, He was welcome in their home, He often ate there and it could have been that he stayed in their home from time to time, after being in the busy city of Jerusalem, for Bethany was just 2 miles outside Jerusalem.

But Jesus is unpredictable

So there was a strong relationship between Jesus and this family. How startling therefore it is for us to read these words: ‘Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.’ Now that doesn’t make any sense at all to us. If we were writing the story we would say something like this: ‘Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he rushed to his bedside to heal him’.

These words are perplexing for us. It’s not what love looks like to us. Jesus isn’t behaving the way we expect him to. We are left wondering what he will do next. He is unpredictable. As Mrs Beaver said about Aslan in CS Lewis’s book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’: ‘he’s not safe but he is good’. Is He safe? Is He good?

‘When Jesus didn’t answer the pleas of Mary and Martha, they probably realised they didn’t know Him as well as they thought they did. Because as the hours of waiting turned into days, Jesus did not meet their expectations. And He may not meet ours. In the story of Lazarus Jesus redefines normal for us. The lingering Jesus does not offer a guarantee that things will work out as we think they should.’ The Lazarus Life by Stephen W. Smith.

(to be continued…)

Waiting and wondering on Easter Saturday

Easter Saturday – or Holy Saturday – is that in-between time. The worst has happened. Jesus has been crucified. The hopes of many have been dasheIMG_6347d. The disciples are confused, disappointed and frightened. They retreat behind closed doors and withdraw into their fear, scared to look ahead, afraid to hope.

The two disciples who walked along the road to Emmaus were walking the long way home from Jerusalem to Emmaus, talking about all that had happened in Jerusalem on Good Friday. They were joined on the road by a Stranger, who wanted to know what they were talking about. Surprised that he didn’t know – wasn’t it the talk of the town? – they told him that Jesus had been crucified. They confessed, ‘But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel’.

The One they had put their trust in had disappointed them. They were confused and disappointed and were retreating – going back home. They didn’t understand what had happened. Things hadn’t turned out as they had hoped. Had they been wrong all along? Confusion and disappointment ate at their broken spirits and their hopes were dashed. They must have wondered what was going to happen next. Some of the women had said they had been to Jesus’ tomb but his body wasn’t there. They couldn’t work out what it all meant.

So the Stranger began to talk to them about the Scriptures. He explained their meaning as they walked that long way home. And – I love this part – when they reached their house, the Stranger ‘acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”’ He wasn’t going to impose – He never does – but always  waits to be invited.

And so it was that, in the breaking and blessing of the bread, they recognised the Stranger. Was it his hands as he broke the bread? Was it his voice as he blessed it? And just as suddenly as he had appeared, he vanished.broken bread

But it was enough. They knew who he was. They knew what he had been talking about. Now it all began to make sense. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And immediately they set out to return to Jerusalem to share the good news.

We live between the ‘now’ and ‘what is yet to be’. We have put our faith in God but so much of what we read in the Bible belongs to the ‘what is yet to be’. Our lives are often filled with disappointment. Our hopes are dashed. Often we are confused; often we are frightened. Sometimes we don’t dare to look forward. Sometimes we are afraid to hope.

Some of us have hopes that have been dashed. Life hasn’t turned out the way we had hoped it would. We are struggling with broken health or broken relationships or some other loss. Some struggle with the loss of mental health. For them, just to get out of bed in the morning is a huge act of faith – a heroic thing. What they had hoped for hasn’t happened. Can they dare to hope?

Some of us have questions related to our faith that make us afraid to hope. It’s all too good to be true. What if it’s all a lie? Can we really base our lives on it? Does it really work? Does it make sense? Our faith is wavering. Can we dare to hope?

We all live in a broken world, a terribly frightening world. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. It doesn’t make sense. Can we dare to hope?

As we wait and as we wonder, let’s give the Stranger time to draw alongside us. He won’t impose but, if he’s invited, he will come. Things might begin to make some sense. And even if they don’t, the presence of the Stranger will bless us in our brokenness.

That’s it over for another year.

It will come and it will go.hyacinths

That’s it over for another year.

So many preparations, so much fuss……and it’s over so quickly.

Where did it go to?

I’m sure you have heard – and maybe uttered or at least thought – some of these phrases in the days since Christmas Day.

It’s true – we put so much effort into the Big Day, whether it’s choosing the right gift for the right person; or wrapping our gifts beautifully; or the endless grocery-shopping; or the grande finale – the Christmas Day dinner. So much thought, so much time, so much energy expended into making Christmas Day memorable. Not to mention people flying all over the world so that they can join their loved ones for the Big Day.

Now and again, in the midst of our preparations and planning, we catch a glimpse of other things which are reminders that real life is going on in the real world from which we are somehow cocooned for a few days in our festive comfort. People are still dying from hunger, victims of human trafficking are still being trafficked, wars are still being fought, death and disease are still our enemies.

And it’s to that real world that we now must somehow return. The Christmas fairytale doesn’t last forever. It’s not happy-ever-after. We must extricate ourselves from the warm comfort of family feasts and return to…..work? debt? illness? or just the routine of real life.

So is that it all over?

It’s only the beginning.

Jesus knew we needed more than a fairy-tale ending. He was born in a smelly manger among the animals. He lived among ordinary people and socialised with questionable people. He died on a cross – a messy death which branded him a criminal. No fairy-tale ending for him.

But his life and his death mean that he understands the messiness of our lives – the disappointments, the hurts, the despair. It means he understands our fears and failures too, our reluctance to face reality, our fear of what life – or death – may hold for us.

Because he lived and died, we can face the future, including Monday morning or the New Year or whatever it is that we fear. We can face our failures too. With Jesus, there is always the possibility of a fresh start, a new beginning. There is always hope.

Now that the poinsettia is almost done and the amaryllis never made it, the bulbs of the hyacinth are bursting with new life – each time I see them, I think of spring and new life and hope.

There is Easter after Christmas. There is hope as one year ends and a new year begins. Whatever your Christmas was like, whatever your year has been like, there is hope as you step into a new year. Step into it with Jesus – he forgives our past, he gets involved in the messiness of our present and he gives hope for our future.

Christmas is only the beginning. Because Jesus came, we have hope.

Relationships: Why Can They Be So Scary?

I received this in my inbox this morning and just had to share it.

Why are relationship struggles so disappointing? Why do the problems we have with other people affect us so powerfully? Why is relational disappointment one of the hardest disappointments for all of us to face? Let me suggest some reasons.

1. You were created to be a social being. You and I were never designed to live in isolation. We were not wired to be distant from and unaffected by the people around us. In fact, since we were created in God’s likeness, desire for and participation in community is a fundamental part of our humanity. The God who made us in his likeness not only does community, he is a community! To deny this aspect of your daily life would literally be to deny your humanity. There would be something dramatically wrong with you if you removed yourself completely from other people. What this means is that the hurts of relationships cut deep. In a real way they touch the essence of who God made you to be, and because of this they are not to be taken lightly.

2. We all tend to enter our relationships with unrealistic expectations. Somehow, someway, we are able to swindle ourselves into thinking that we will be able to avoid the difficulties that attend any relationship in this broken world. In the early days of a relationship we work to convince ourselves that we are more righteous, and the other person more perfect, than we and they actually are. This causes us to be shocked when an unexpected but inevitable difficulty gets in the way of the bliss that we had convinced ourselves that we had finally found. Here is where the Bible is so helpful. It is very honest about the messiness and disappointment that everyone deals with in every relationship they have.

3. We all tend to seek to get identity from our relationships. What does this mean? It means that we tend to look for fundamental personal meaning, purpose and sense of well-being from other people. In doing this, we turn people into our own personal messiahs, seeking to get from them what no other human being is ever able to deliver. That other person is not supposed to be the thing that gets you up in the morning. They are not to be what makes life worth living for you. When they are in this place, you have given them too much power and you are asking of them something that no flawed human being can ever pull off. On the other hand, when you are getting your foundational sense of well-being from the Lord, you are then able to step into the inevitable messiness of relationships this side of heaven, and be neither anxious nor self-protective.

4. We tend to be disappointed in our relationships because they were more about the purposes of our little kingdoms of self than they were about the kingdom of God. Without being aware of it, our relationships are often about what we want out of our lives rather than what God wants for our lives. So we have an “I love you and have a wonderful plan for your life,” approach to relationships with other people. Often we are disappointed with a relationship at the exact moment when God is producing through this relationship exactly what he wanted to produce. Our problem is that our agenda doesn’t agree with God’s!

So, there are reasons for our disappointments but there is grace for them as well. The God who will take us where we did not plan to go in order to produce in us what we could not achieve on our own, will also give us the grace to hang in there as he uses the messy disappointment of relationships to change and grow us and others.

Wednesday’s Word is a resource of Paul Tripp Ministries.

For more information about Paul Tripp Ministries, visit www.paultripp.com

When God rewrites the text of your life, Part 2

God rewrote the text of my life 
      when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. 

Psalm 18:20-24.

The second occasion that I was aware of God rewriting the text of my life came in 1986, two years after I was married. Alan and I were keen to start a family and had been trying to have a baby for some time. We had had a few false alarms and I had consulted a couple of doctors when, in early 1986, we found out that I was pregnant. We were overjoyed. We began to look forward to having a baby.

But it was not to be. Seven weeks into the pregnancy, I had a scan and the doctor could not find the baby’s heartbeat. I had to stay in hospital for a few days. Then I began to bleed. The bleeding steadily got worse. The hospital ward was understaffed so I was left behind a curtain for most of the time, with no medical staff near me – bleeding and crying over the loss of our baby.

In the next bed was a lady who was in hospital to get sterilised. The doctor came round to see her and through the curtain I could hear him discuss the procedure with her, making sure she understood that this was irreversible and she would not be able to have children after it. How ironic as I lay in the next bed, losing the baby I had longed for!

Alan came up at visiting time and found me behind the curtain, breaking the news that we were losing our baby. It was a hard time for both of us. Our baby had died – and with it our dreams. Of course I had only been 7 weeks pregnant – some would think it was hardly long enough to call the life within me a baby. In medical terms it was called ‘the products of conception’ and was incinerated within my hearing. But any mother will know and understand that, although just 7 weeks old, that little scrap had been my baby.

Would we ever have another baby? We didn’t know.

What we did know, however, was that God was in control, and we clung to that fact. I remember the next morning being filled with the sense that God loved me. So, I reasoned simply, if God loves me He has allowed this to happen in love. I don’t know why – and I don’t know if I’ll ever get pregnant again – but it’s enough today to know that He loves me. Somehow God gave me a supernatural sense of His love which carried me through those days.

Returning home wasn’t easy and then facing everyone with the news that we had lost our baby. I remember being surprised by the different reactions we had from different people. One man acknowledged to Alan that he, as the husband, had also lost our baby. That was helpful because so often the man is left out of the equation when the baby is lost so early in the pregnancy.

Someone else said to me something like this: ‘Well, the Bible says we are to give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for us’. What?  The advice was well-meaning but the effect was cruel. How could I give thanks that I had lost a baby?

I don’t believe that God intends for us to be thankful in the face of death. Death is our last enemy and even Jesus wept when someone He loved had died. Nor do I believe that God wants us to deny our negative feelings or squash our disturbing questions. Larry Crabb deals with this subject in his book, ‘Inside Out’. He says this:

‘The tendency in most of us us to look for a way to wrap the painful question in pretty paper. We want to provide answers that settle things on a positive note, or, when that seems out of reach, at least closes down an uncomfortable discussion. There are biblical truths that deal with the tough questions.  God’s demonstration of love at the Cross should end all doubt as to whether God is for us. The fact of His sovereignty requires us to finally be still. But when legitimate truth is offered for the purpose of shutting down hard questions, that truth becomes a cliche. Sincere questions spoken from a heart of pain must be allowed to open the door to confusion. To slam the door shut, and in so doing to assert that honest confusion has no place in our pursuit of God, leads to a forced, mechanical trust rather than to a real and vital confidence.’

God can take all our questions. He can cope with all our negative feelings.  When He has rewritten the text of our lives and we are thrown into confusion, He wants us to be honest with Him, to work through the confusion and allow it to bring us to a place of renewed trust and confidence in God.

Crabb says: ‘There is incredible resistance – more in Christian circles, I think, than in secular – to owning internal pain. Even a glance in the direction of discouragement and fear violates our idea of what a victorious Christian should be doing…..To deal with what’s really going on inside is disturbing, too uncomfortable; so we hide the truth from others – and from ourselves.’

I remember during a period of great discouragement in one of the churches we served in, one of the other leaders said to me, ‘Don’t be discouraged’. I guess he meant to encourage me – but somehow it sounded like I was not allowed to be discouraged, I should not voice my discouragement. We are afraid of owning our pain – and we don’t want others to own theirs. Better to keep it all under the surface and pretend it isn’t there.

But is it? Crabb contends: ‘Keenly felt disappointment in the present supplies the energy for passionate hope for the future….Hope is the antidote for disappointment and the demandingness it creates. With confidence in the Lord, we are free to love, to risk more disappointment, to face the inevitability of frustration, to embrace that frustration as a stimulus to a more passionate hope. Feeling disappointment puts us in touch with a thirst that only hope can satisfy.’