“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21
Mary and Martha were brokenhearted and upset. Their brother Lazarus had become ill and died, leaving them alone and without anyone to support them. And it could’ve all been different if only Jesus had come in time! Martha’s disappointment is strongly expressed in the verse above. Even her sister expressed the same thing as she repeated the exact words just a little while later: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). This must have been on their minds, even before Jesus arrived. They had to have been talking about it together, bemoaning the fact that Jesus wasn’t there. All they could think of was how different things could have been if Jesus had just come soon enough. It’s too easy for us to read this story, knowing “the rest of the story,” to say, “Well, where was their faith?”
We, however, often make the same mistake as they did. We grieve and complain about a tragedy that may have hit us and we wonder why God didn’t do something to prevent it. If only things had not happened as they did, the results would be different, but now we see no hope. After all, we pleaded with God to save us from the very thing that now overwhelms us, but Heaven was silent. Where was God when I needed Him the most?
We need to remind ourselves (as difficult as it may be at times) that God looks at things differently than we humans do. Where we see disaster, God sees triumph. Where we see despair, God sees glory. The classic example of this is when Nate Saint, Jim Elliot and 3 others went to scout out the Auca Indians in South America. What seemed like a wonderful beginning and warm greeting, turned into a blood bath as the Auca people, using their spears, killed all five men. Where was God?
Looking back now, it was because of that tragedy, the Jim Elliot’s wife Elizabeth, went back to the Auca Indians and lived among them, translated the Bible into their language and many came to Christ – including the chief and the others who had killed those 5 men.
We need to always remember that God is in control of everything that happens. Nothing ever takes Him by surprise, and nothing can defeat His purposes. Listen to Jesus’ words to the disciples as they too, questioned his tardiness. “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:15). How could Jesus have been glad that He had not been there to heal Lazarus? Because He had a much better plan! God never allows evil things to happen unless He has a plan to bring good out of them. We can have confidence in Jesus’ response to Martha when He said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
What an encouragement that is for us today is we live and try to navigate in so much uncertainty around us. God knows what He’s doing. His plans have not been and will not be thwarted. Nothing can defeat His purposes! “If you believe, you will see the glory of God!”