By Andi Hines
Trials in life are the funniest things. We often fear they will break us, but when God is in our corner, suffering merely results in a growth spurt, albeit a painful one. I have been through many such growth spurts. Maybe you have, too? Some of them have been moderately challenging, while others have threatened to completely consume me.
What happens to us in moments of a desperate struggle? We may feel overwhelmed and under equipped. But then a light comes on, and we realize we need to call out for Jesus. Our circumstances seem too big. We plead for His help. We know He will respond if we ask. We know He will wrap us in His power and love, our soul held snug within His arms. He comforts us. The morning my husband passed away I had such an experience.
When the paramedics arrived, one of them took me out to the front porch and sat me down. My mind was whirling and confused. All the context I had in my life was gone. What was happening?
I remember bending over onto my lap, nearly falling from the bench. I heard my whispering. Over, and over, and over again: “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” It was my prayer. In my mind, I was on my face, calling for the only one who could fix it. I had no other hope. The paramedics were unable to help my husband. Now, who was going to help me? Breathing was a challenge. Again, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” I needed Him to help me survive this. Over and over I called.
In John 11, Mary and Martha are having their own profound experience with God. Their brother, Lazarus, beloved by Christ, has died. Historically, this event will be a sign, a witness of who Jesus is, and what He offers. But, for Mary and Martha, it is agony. They need the Lord. They believe if He had been there, their brother Lazarus would not have died. God was there with me, and even so, my Lew died.
Prayer is not about getting our answers our way. It’s about having His presence near. It’s about not being alone in your most desperate trial. It’s about trusting your Lord with all your needs. In John 11:19 and 28, we learn that Martha has met Jesus. She tells Him, “If you had only been there, my brother would not have died.” Now Jesus is coming to Mary, and in the following verses (31-32), we see what happened.
“When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
We need to remember they were talking to the Lord of the universe, the only One who has complete authority over life and death. Their prayer would be answered. Lazarus would rise. In John 11:4, we read the words of Christ as He addressed the death of Lazarus:
“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
The death and resurrection of Lazarus was obviously part of a much larger story. His resurrection was the evidence of who Christ was and what He was offering all of us. Still we can’t overlook the emotional pleadings of Mary and Martha and wonder if they had anything to do with Christ’s actions. I know that everything in my life would have been on the table that morning if God would have brought Lew back to me. He could have had it all. My pleadings, even though they were unspoken, were deep and sincere. But prayer is about more than how a prayer sounds, or the words we use. Prayer is about our heart. It reflects the health, or the lack of it, in our spiritual relationship, and like any other relationship, our spiritual relationship grows by joining in, by taking time for, that relationship.
Did the pleadings of Mary and Martha have an impact on Christ’s decision to raise Lazarus? Of course they did. That’s why Christ suffered the trials of the cross, a death of humiliation, and a torn relationship as His father was forced to look away from His dying Son.
The pleadings of Mary and Martha were answered affirmatively! Yes, I will raise your brother. But Christ will also raise my Lew. And someday my children will know that He will also raise me.
The prayers of countless hearts throughout the centuries begging for help, intervention, healing, peace and so much more are heard, each and every one is heard and answered affirmatively. Yes, I will help! Yes, I am here! Come and know Me. Pray to Me, and I will hear you.
Father, I know You heard me that morning. I know You hear all the pleadings of so many of us in our moments of trial. We don’t always understand why You choose the answer You do, but as with Mary and Martha, we know You don’t represent death or loss but the gain of eternal life! Give us the words to pray, words that call all whom we love to Your nearness. Amen.