WHEN JESUS DOESN’T COME by Rebecca McLaughlin for Core Christianity

Mary and Martha were two of Jesus’s best friends. They’d welcomed Jesus to their house and heard him teach (Luke 10:38—42). One day, their brother Lazarus got sick. Really sick. But Mary and Martha knew a miracle worker. Thousands of sick people had come to Jesus and he’d healed them. So they sent Jesus a message: “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3). You’d think that Jesus would come at once, right? But no. John writes, “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).

How weird is that? John doesn’t say, “Jesus loved his friends, but he was super busy with other things, so he couldn’t come right away.” He doesn’t say, “Jesus didn’t love his friends, so he thought he’d make them wait.” John says that because Jesus loved his friends, he didn’t come. In fact, Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead. And then he came.

What do we learn from this? One thing we learn is that there are times when God intends for us to suffer, not because he doesn’t love us but because he does. We may not understand it at the time, just as Harry didn’t understand why Dumbledore had left him with the Dursleys. But we know that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and because he loved them, he didn’t come.

Maybe you’ve had suffering in your life, and you’ve prayed really hard for God to take it away. Perhaps someone at school bullies you, and you’ve prayed that he would stop. But he hasn’t. Or perhaps your mother got really sick, and you prayed for her to get better. But she didn’t. Or maybe you prayed and prayed that your parents would stop fighting, but instead they got divorced.

If God loves us and he is in charge, we might think he’d take sad things away when we ask. Sometimes he does. I’ve certainly had that experience. But sometimes he doesn’t. And I’ve had that happen too. Just like when Mary and Martha called for Jesus and he didn’t come.

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