Sometimes God, out of love, treats us to a good dose of delay. God’s love delays. Do you believe this?
You can also listen to this post on the Keep On podcast.
God’s Good Purpose
I feel no constraint to blog every time my daily readings converge. But this time I do.
You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand…Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.James 5:8,11 (ESV)
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.John 11:5-6 (ESV)
God’s purpose was kind with afflicted Job. Jesus loved this family so he let Lazarus die. Those are hard to swallow.
Impossible, I think, without faith.
“God loves you and he knows what he is doing.“
“What difference would it make in your life if you were absolutely convinced of these two things?” That’s how Pastor Kevin DeYoung began his sermon on John 11:1-16.
Do you believe that when God makes us wait, he intends to bless?
But probably not in the way we would expect. It certainly wasn’t the way Job or Lazarus expected. Job’s children died and his health and wealth were destroyed. God didn’t spare Mary and Martha heartache. Their dear Lazarus died.
The Lover of my soul doesn’t always love me how I would choose to be loved. I grappled with that here.
I’m still learning that a lot of what I used to think was love wasn’t love at all, and to trust that what doesn’t feel like comfortable is God’s realio-trulio love.
Jesus Loved, So He Stayed
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 (John 11:5-6, ESV).
Little words make a big difference. Like the little word “so” starting verse six. The Greek word is “oun.” It means “so” or “therefore.”
Why is that important? Because it’s not how we would think verse five connects to verse six. But it is.
Theologian D.A. Carson, who knows the Greek, says the meaning is clear: the text is claiming that Jesus showed his love by delay.
In other words, Jesus waited and didn’t save Lazarus from dying because he loved Mary and Mary and Lazarus. This is not how we think love acts.
Our concept of love would have Jesus race to Lazarus. “Now Jesus heard Lazarus was ill and so he made haste.” That makes sense. But not, “he waited two more days.”
But as I live my life amply seasoned with heart aches and long waits, this is one of the most soul-strengthening, hopeful truths I know. Jesus loves me. Therefore, he makes me wait.
If 20 years of infertility wait and 15 years of employment wait, 10 years of church healing wait and five years of prodigal wait have taught me anything, it is to trust God’s love in the delay.
Which, I admit, demands that I expand my concept of God’s love.
God’s Love Means God’s Glory
Love is doing whatever you have to do — or whatever God has to do — at whatever cost, in order for the glory of God to be shown. If this definition sounds out of left field—it did to me—please read John 11. (Or listen to “Even When It Hurts,” where John Piper unpacks this definition.)
If seeing the glory of God is our greatest good, then the most loving thing God could do is to show us more of his glory.
By waiting these extra two days, the kind of miracle that was to be performed was so spectacular that Jesus would attract the kind of faith in himself, in Jesus as the resurrection and the life, that the people needed in order to understand just who Jesus is… It was an act of love to delay.
Mind you, it wouldn’t have seemed like that to the two women…I can imagine what was going through their heads. “Are you so flaming busy you can’t come back to the one who loved you and whom you loved?” Jesus comes up to a desperate plea for help and demonstrates his love by delay.
If you have known and loved a two-year-old, you know that loving parents sometimes make their children wait. Because toddlers want to eat now and play now and be done now. Toddlers don’t see how food could be tastier or play could be more fun if they wait. They live in the now.
A Source of Wondrous Strength
Christians can be like this too. We want what we want now.
But we must grow up. We must learn to see God’s delays as marks of his love.
Never try to interpret love by its manifestations. How often our Father sends chastisement, sorrow, bereavement, pressure! How well He could take me out of it all—in a moment—He has the power, but He leaves me there. Oh, may He help us to rest patiently in Himself at such times, not trying to read His love by circumstances, but them, whatever they may be, through the love of His heart. This gives wondrous strength.Charles Henry Mackintosh, quoted in “Gospel of John” by Arthur Pink, p. 572
Part of growing up is choosing to “be patient and establish our hearts.” Spiritual maturity means we increasingly trust that God really does love us and really does know what he’s doing.
That builds strength. Big girl, and big boy, grown-up strength. Wondrous strength.
Love Is About Glory
Let’s go back to John 11. Jesus has delayed for two days.
Now look at verses 14–15:
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Jesus is glad that Lazarus who he loved has died.
So that they might see God’s glory and believe. That’s what the whole Gospel of John is about. Glory is revealed through Lazarus being raised that leads to belief. And all that couldn’t happen until Lazarus was “good and dead,”—”he stinketh” dead—in the grave.
Do you see it? That God’s glory and his love are woven into our delays? And all of this master weaving is so that we might believe, even if through pain?
Love is not what the world thinks it is. It’s not the removal of pain. It’s not the removal of death. You were made for the glory of God, not just the removal of pain…This text is about revealing the glory of God, revealing it through a very strange kind of love, namely, Jesus staying two days where he was and letting Lazarus die. The glory of God in Jesus is the only thing that can satisfy your soul.John Piper, “Even When It Hurts“
Seeing God’s glory is an expression of his love. It is not a care-free and comfortable love. But surely it is a taste of Christ’s broader, longer, higher, deeper love.
God’s Compassionate, Merciful Purpose
Today, as I watch a loved one struggle on, as I submit again in reverence for Christ, as I feel more of the weight of the curse on God’s world, I choose to believe that God loves me and that he knows what he’s doing.
I believe there’s a purpose, that I will see his compassion and mercy, and the glory of the Lord will be revealed.
I will see it.
And this showing me soul-satisfying glory is an expression of his love.
Do You Believe This?
Remember my two texts that converged?
We looked at John 11:5, but now let’s look at James 5:11:
You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
God’s purpose is to show his compassion and his mercy. Since his other big purpose is displaying his glory, I wonder if God’s compassion and mercy interwoven with his glory.
In compassion and mercy God restored Job—after majestic shows of his glory. In compassion and mercy, God raised Lazarus—in a majestic show of glory.
Then he raised the Lord of glory, that we might believe in him and be saved.
This is his purpose. This is his glory. And this is his love.
God loves you and he knows what he’s doing.
Do you believe this?
“His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.”