One of the great things about Christmas, if we take step back and reflect, is that it reminds us that Jesus was human like you and me. He came into this world the same way we did and experienced the same emotions and temptations. Yes, Jesus came for the ultimate purpose to pay the price which should have been ours for our sins, but I believe one of His purposes was also to allow us to truly see the heart of God in a way we could not fully comprehend if there was only God the Father up in Heaven. One of the places where we get great insight into his heart is through the death of Lazarus in John 11:1-43.
I don’t know what 2019 has brought you and what 2020 and beyond will bring you, but I know this past year has brought my family and I some challenges with 2 spine surgeries in my neck and some loss of functionality in my hand, as well as other changes, I thought I would never see. However, it has also brought blessings and what I would call miracles in the midst which we would not have experienced without these challenges. Yes, I am still praying for an additional miracle for my hand to fully come back, but these experiences brought me closer to God with more gratitude for His blessings and my main prayers have been that my experience helps others in some way (at least 2 people so far are seeing the same surgeon) and that God be glorified through it.
In these verses in John, we see Mary and Martha first react in a way that most of do through challenges.. questioning why He let this happen and even why He wasn’t there (John 11:21, John 11:32). After He sees Martha and the other Jews crying it says in John 11:33 that He was “deeply moved in His Spirit and greatly troubled.” It then says right after in John 11:35, “He wept.” In my humble opinion, He is not weeping because His friend, Lazarus, died…for He knew what was going to happen and says so at least 4 times before this (John 11:3, John 11:11, John 11:14, John 11:23). I believe He is weeping because He sees the pain of Mary and Martha and the other Jews. How blessed are we that we have a God who cares about our pains and showed us that in the physical person of Jesus? Our feelings matter to Him. He cares.
Jesus also tells us multiple times here in these verses the purpose of our pain..
“..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.”
“Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to Him.’”
“Jesus said, ’Did I not tell you that if you believed you will see the glory of God?’”
“’…..but I said this on account of the people standing around that they may believe that you sent me.’”
We must know and trust that nothing happens “to us”…only “for us”…or better yet…”for Him.” This is hard. We don’t like pain and problems. I mentioned earlier Martha was upset and took a jab so to speak saying to Jesus that this wouldn’t have happened if He was there (John 11:21), but she also says in John 11:22, “But even now I know whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” It’s okay to be human and be upset for a moment..that’s normal..but she gives us a great example of going back to believing and trusting in Him. Jesus says we must fully believe in the glory of God and His ability to do miracles in John 11:40 when He says, ….”Did I not tell you if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Through my health challenges in 2019, I’ve tried to do my best to share my faith in God and His plan and will for my life, and most importantly, share the miracles/blessings that have still come in the midst of it. What could have been could have been way worse. It was a miracle to find my doctor in Pittsburgh who performed a procedure no one else is doing with the least long term effects..even my doctors at Mayo didn’t know about it. I only found him because my sister-in-law’s sister had the same condition and found him. Or worse yet, if I was born in a different time in history when no treatment was available, I would have become paralyzed in time.
One of the biggest miracles in this situation did not happen this year though, it happened in 2002. I can vividly remember sitting in front of the computer at home and trying to decide if I was going to choose a major of biology on my University of Illinois application and pursue my dream to be an orthodontist, or switch to a business major at the 11th hour. I decided to switch to business. Why? I didn’t fully know at time…maybe less time in school (haha)..it was my dream though. Now, 18 years later, I can see God’s plan for that change. I would not be able to practice as an orthodontist today with the loss of functionality of my hand, and I would not have been able to purchase insurance to protect my income for my family due to pre-existing conditions before I would have even started my dental training. However, because of that click of a button and God’s plan..not mine…I can still continue my career as a financial advisor and have multi-generational impact and provide for my family through the work I do. Praise God.
We can find God’s blessings and miracles through every situation, even death, when we just reflect and search. Will you join me in praying for wisdom to do our absolute best in 2020 and beyond to look for them…and most importantly to glorify Him through them…no matter how hard it is? God cares, and He has a plan…even when it seems impossible to see. Let us trust in and remember that.