Recently in a training module we looked at the story of raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-54) and we were all asked to listen from the point of view of someone in the story. I was Lazarus. Not the person you’d first think of – but it was very enlightening.
How did I feel? · Unloved and let down: “don’t you care about me? I thought you’d at least come.” · Uncomfortable : Not much fun being dead in a cold tomb… · Accepting: I realised afterwards that my feelings and discomfort were necessary for Jesus to show who he was, and was reminded of Job’s story. · I wasn’t able to feel joyful about the whole affair, although perhaps Lazarus did and I was just missing that in trying to imagine the situation rather than being there.
But it raises some thoughts and questions that it might be helpful for us all to contemplate: If we are feeling unloved or uncomfortable, is it because God trusts us enough to be using us for his purposes – like Lazarus, and Job? It may be that we are in difficult circumstances that are no fault of our own. Although it is hard, we can strive to be faithful and trust that God will use our circumstances for good. Hebrews 11 verses 39 and 40 speak of those who died in suffering: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Are we willing to feel unloved or uncomfortable in serving Christ? It was essential that Lazarus died and was raised to life again, and frankly he wasn’t given much choice in the matter. But usually we are given a choice. St Paul chose to set off on dangerous and uncomfortable missionary journeys for instance. Although he felt compelled and called to do it, he still had a choice, and there must have been times when he felt like giving up – when cold, wet, shipwrecked or being beaten or stoned. Are we willing to risk discomfort or more for the sake of Christ? I am not talking about deliberately choosing to suffer – that is selfish piety and of no value. I am talking about willingness to risk. Abraham was willing to risk the life of his son, but in the end did not have to lose him. Most times when we risk we are not actually called to suffer as a consequence, but perhaps we can try to ‘do what is right, no matter what the consequence is’? Hebrews 12 verses 1 to 3 encourage us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Perhaps take some time out and read Hebrews 11 and 12, and ask God to strengthen our faith so that we can respond faithfully to whatever he has in store for us.
Drawing Near What helps you draw close to God? Is it a particular hymn or passage of scripture, or a particular place? We used to have very! long car journeys and my mum taught us hymns and choruses to while away the hours. I’ve included two here that I loved when I was young and the truths also became my reality. Take a moment to let the words speak to you and lift your heart to the Lord. What a friend we have in Jesus All our sins and griefs to bear And what a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer Oh, what peace we often forfeit Oh, what needless pain we bear All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged Take it to the Lord in prayer Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear; May we ever, Lord, be bringing All to Thee in earnest prayer. Soon in glory bright, unclouded, There will be no need for prayer-- Rapture, praise, and endless worship Will be our sweet portion there.
Also, How Great Thou Art by Chris Rice: O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder Consider all The works Thy Hand hath made, I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder, Thy pow'r throughout The universe displayed, When through the woods And forest glades I wander I hear the birds Sing sweetly in the trees,
When I look down From lofty mountain grandeur And hear the brook And feel the gentle breeze, When Christ shall come, With shouts of acclamation, And take me home, What joy shall fill my heart! Then I shall bow In humble adoration And there proclaim, "My God, how great Thou art!" (CH) Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art! Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!