Life of Christ 132
In today's post I want to return to yesterday's story about the resurrection of Lazarus. You will recall that Jesus received news of Lazarus' sickness, and yet chose to stay in Perea for two more days. 'When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was' (John 11.6). Jesus did this because He needed to develop the Apostles faith in Himself by allowing them to see Him raise Lazarus from the dead, 'to the intent that ye may believe' (John 11.15).
|A West Virginia hillside in Autumn|
I draw from this a tremendous lesson, and one I hope will be as much of a blessing to you as it has been to me. When you need a miracle, and God is not doing anything, it is for some great reason. God is omniscient, so He knows your distress. God is omnipotent, so He can fix your distress. God loves you, so He will not needlessly leave you in trouble or anguish. He only does so out of necessity. 'Though now for a season, if need, be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ' (I Peter 1.6-7).
If need be – sometimes the need is our own. Sometimes, to develop a faith in us that will trust Him through the rest of our lives He must subject us to some fiery trial for a lengthy period of time. Sometimes, to slough off some unholiness of thought or action He must use the chisel of heartbreaking, seemingly never ending, circumstance. Sometimes, He must draw us to Himself with pain.
Twenty four years ago, on a steaming July day, I sat on a West Virginia hillside. I had just received a letter that had smashed my dreams into tiny pieces. Through tears, I watched those tiny pieces whirl away on the hot summer breeze. After a period of intense prayer, I picked up my pen and my notebook, and wrote the following poem:
I need to walk and cry
I need to sit and weep
I need to pace and sigh
I need to hurt a heap
I need to ache inside
I need to burdened be
I need a tear to stride
Down my face slowly
I need a load to carry
I need a pain to bear
I need a hope to bury
I need a grief to share
I need a broken heart
I can leave with You
I need the bitter part
To keep me close to You
I realize William Shakespeare's place in English literature is not threatened by the likes of me, but that would not be the only poem I wrote through tears on that West Virginia hillside that summer. For nigh on seven years, God put me through the ringer, so to speak, and as He did so, I learned to know Him. It was very good for me. I needed it.
Sometimes the need is not our own; sometimes the need is one carried by others around us. Perhaps someone we know needs to see how a mature Christian handles trouble and anguish with faith. Perhaps they need to drink from the well of our comfort that we dug, shovel by bitter shovel full, with our trust in God. Perhaps they need to be drawn to the wondrous love that is Christ by seeing us believe in Him through the fire.
Sometimes, even, the need is God's Himself. George Mueller, that marvelous 19th century man of prayer and faith, told God that he wanted to be a billboard or a platform on which God displayed Himself. God took Mueller up on that, and led him through some sharp twists and turns along the way, yet God is still receiving glory as a result even now, well over a century later. God needs to be glorified, and sometimes what brings Him glory is our patience and faith in tribulation.
|A West Virginia hillside in Autumn|
Please do not misunderstand me today. God is not an ogre who delights in afflicting us. He is not some petty tyrant or schoolyard bully who pushes us around for His own pleasure. Indeed, He joins us in our heartache, as He did so thoughtfully with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in their burning fiery furnace. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, as He did with David. He never leaves us nor forsakes us, and He is most tender and careful in His afflictions.
At the same time, it is also undeniable that He often leaves His children to endure suffering for far longer than we ourselves would choose. Beloved, when you need a miracle, and God is not doing anything, it is for some great reason.
Trust Him. And then trust Him again tomorrow. And for as many tomorrows as it takes.