Encounter: Martha

Encountering Jesus’

desire to Fully Satisfy

By Lori Talbot

This story of Martha losing her beloved brother speaks to me almost too personally. My own beloved, younger brother and only sibling passed away suddenly and unexpectedly just a few days before this past Christmas, leaving me in a state of shock and deep loss. How could this happen? I had unfinished plans with him, conversations yet to be had, and so many things yet to do together. I had envisioned him growing in his faith and overcoming some issues he was struggling with. I would come alongside him in that. But everything came to an abrupt halt. Instead, I had to break this tragic news to our aging parents.

I was plunged into cleaning out his place, making funeral arrangements, writing his obituary, and taking care of all the practical needs, as he had no spouse or children. Oh yes, I could relate to Martha’s first words to Jesus when she went out to meet him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” These words reflected my own cries: Lord, where were you? How could you have let this happen? Didn’t you know our time together wasn’t finished? He wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready!

I am struck by how Jesus did not rush to Lazarus’ side when He knew he was sick, but stayed where He was for two more days. Where was His sense of urgency? We know He loved Lazarus and his sisters, Martha and Mary. Why didn’t He hurry to them when they needed Him most? We are also told He was deeply moved and wept when He joined Mary and the others at the tomb. Jesus empathized with their deep pain and sorrow. He also knew the Father had greater plans. He is not reactive, not compelled in the same ways we are. He is not struck by fear when circumstances seem out of control. In fact, He is never out of control or at a loss as to what to do. He has hold of us in all the valleys and through all the trials of life.

At 18 years old, after growing up in religion, I placed my faith in Jesus. This was new to me, actually trusting Him in a deeper way with my life rather than just following religious rules and expectations. This means trusting Him for who He is. Trusting Him in the storms of life, when I can’t make sense of it. I still can’t make sense of my brother’s death. Then, just two months later, on February 26 of this year my father also passed away unexpectedly while He was visiting us here in Eugene from La Pine. My wonderful father, who was a rock to me all my life, giving love and encouragement to me, even in the wake of my brother’s death. The loss in my heart is deep, like an empty cavern of grief. I can understand why the deep disappointments of life can make people question God and His love for them and cause them to go another way. 

Jesus told Martha that her brother would rise again. More importantly, He asked if she believed who He is, the resurrection and the life. Even in the pain, my heart resonates with Martha’s response, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” And I think of another response given to Jesus by Peter in the Gospel of John, chapter 6. When many of the disciples turned away and no longer followed Him, Jesus asked Peter if he also wanted to leave. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” No, this isn’t the time to turn away. This is the time to trust the giver of life all the more, and wait and see what He will do.

Lori Talbot is a native Oregonian, born and raised in Eugene, and has also lived in Santa Rosa, California. Growing up in formal religion and always believing in the existence of God, she came to a personal faith in Jesus at age 18 and was transformed from a very works-oriented mindset to a new freedom in and love for Christ. She works at the University of Oregon as the executive assistant to the chief of staff for University Advancement. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, reading, dance fitness, and movies. She and her husband Charlie have attended UFC for nearly three years. They have five grown children and four grandchildren.