Like many other Christian conservatives, I’m frustrated these days. You see, I’ve been praying for a long time that God would put a godly person in the White House. Although I am in no position to discern the spiritual condition of any candidate, the one who seemed to be the easiest and most obvious answer to my prayers is no longer an option, so I’m a little upended.
To be honest, I haven’t even let myself consider fully what this means for the election in November. Instead, I’m choosing to ignore the truth of the present political landscape like I ignore the dishes in my sink after cooking Italian. Denial may not solve my problems, but it spares me a queasy stomach.
Then, I open my Bible. The passage slated for my personal Bible study today is a familiar one, the story of Jesus’ interaction with Martha after Lazarus’ death (John 11:17-27), a story so familiar to me that I’m tempted to skim over it, pray, and get on with my day. However, I know that won’t do a blessed thing for my current state of mind, so I make myself focus, read, reread, and listen, and I notice something. Martha’s attitude when she approaches Jesus on the road bears a startling resemblance to mine.
My heart tunes in.
“Then Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet, even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’”
She’s not mad, exactly, but frustrated and very careful to couch that frustration in words of confessed, if not wholly felt, faith. Jesus hasn’t done what she thought He would, what she hoped for when she and Mary sent Him news of Lazarus’ illness days before, and she is upended.
Still, Martha knows that Jesus is her only hope of any good coming out of a seemingly negative situation. They say faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto. Well, that’s exactly where she is, sad, discouraged, disappointed, and frustrated, but still hoping for a miracle.
Sounds very familiar.
“’Your brother will rise again,’ Jesus told her.”
It’s not exactly the response Martha is hoping for. “Okay, girl, get ready! I’m about to raise your brother up in 3,2,1…” would have been more like it, but Jesus’ answer, although true, is a bit vague and not as reassuring as it could be.
“Martha said, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’”
Now, I don’t ever want to read into Scripture what isn’t there, so I won’t venture to guess Martha’s thoughts, but I will tell you that I, in Martha’s situation, would be thinking something like, “Thank you, Jesus. I’m well aware. I’ll be looking forward to that, but I need your help now! Give me something to hang on to, something solid and reassuring today!”
That’s just what He does.
“Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?’”
Jesus, in His wisdom, turns Martha’s attention away from what she wants, and helps her focus instead on what she needs.
With gentleness and patience, He lifts Martha above the sadness, disappointment, discouragement, and frustration of the moment and gives her a glimpse of the big picture, something she obviously knows about, given her response to His first statement, but may have lost sight of in the midst of her confusion and grief.
Perspective gained, Martha settles.
“’Yes, Lord,’ she told Him, ‘I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary…”
Her grief still fresh, her heart still aching, her mind still asking questions, Martha rests in the Truth of Who Jesus is and the hope that He provides, not the superficial hope of a temporary fix, but an eternal hope that carries those who place their faith in Jesus through times of uncertainty.
Of course, we know how the story ends. Jesus does raise Lazarus from the dead, and there is much rejoicing. So why the delay?
Consider this. What would have happened if Jesus had given Martha what she wanted when she wanted it? Who would’ve gotten the credit, the glory, for the miracle then?
To some degree, I think Jesus would have, maybe in the Bethany Gazette below an overexposed photo of Him by His bandage-wrapped buddy.
But what about Martha? Would she have given Jesus all of the glory in her heart, operating as she was in the understandably self-centered and temporal frame of mind she initially demonstrated on the road? Or would she have tucked just a bit of that credit, that glory, away for herself, justifiable recompense for choosing faith in Jesus under pressure?
I wonder what we would have done, brothers and sisters, if God had put a godly person in the White House. I can’t speak for you, but I have a niggling suspicion that I might not have responded appropriately and given God all the glory for what would surely have been a miracle, but claimed some of the credit, the glory, for myself, justifiable recompense for prayers offered in faith.
I’ll never know.
As things stand, I’ve no choice but to look at the big picture and rest in Who Jesus is and the hope that He provides, and I’m glad for it.
What does the future hold? I have absolutely no idea, but I know that my Father is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20) and I trust Him completely. For whatever good He is able to work through what certainly looks like a mess to me (Romans 8:28), I will give Him every bit of the glory.