I've been reading today in my bible study preparation in the book of John, chapter 11, where Jesus goes to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. There's a couple of things I want to note before I go to bed that I think relate to how I need to relate to Jesus when I'm praying and bringing my requests to God.
First is that Mary and Martha sent Jesus a note telling him that their brother Lazarus was sick. All the note said was "Lord, your dear friend is sick". No big details, no great pleadings, no weeping and gnashing of teeth. Just a note, telling Jesus about something that was troubling them.
Understand, the women were likely very worried about their brother if they sent word to Jesus regarding the illness. This was not a cold or the flu they were talking about, and they didn't just put a stamp on an envelope and drop it in the mail, or fire off a short e-mail. They send a messenger on a full day's journey to find Jesus and relay the message. They were concerned that, as it turns out, Lazarus was very near his deathbed. But in that note they didn't plead or demand anything of Jesus. They knew that Jesus could heal the sick, and they trusted that their beloved Teacher could heal their brother, if only he was made aware of the illness in time.
I think that says a lot about how we should approach God with our prayers and requests; trusting that God will take our requests and concerns and do the right thing with them. The faith part comes in trusting that whatever God does will be the right thing.
Mary and Martha had faith, without question, but their faith was limited in its scope.
Jesus waited 2 days before taking the full day's journey to Bethany. In total , four days had passed since Mary and Martha sent word, and it turns out Lazarus died soon after the messenger left. By the time Jesus arrived in town, Lazarus had been dead four days.
Martha met him and showed her grief and limited faith (the little faith of which I sometimes wonder if I have), and told Jesus that, had he been there in time, she knew her brother would have survived. Martha knew that Jesus had power over illness. She didn't yet grasp His power over life itself. Her scope was still limited.
Jesus declares that Lazarus will rise again. Martha, still not quite comprehending, takes the long view, which is not the wrong view but in this case a limited view, that indeed Lazarus will raise in the last days with all God's children at the last Resurrection.
Jesus then knocks Martha's socks off by stating "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?"
Martha, in her wavering sorrow and mourning over the loss of her brother, seems to begin to understand, and confesses her belief in Jesus by saying, "I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." Imagine being there, on the dusty outskirts of town, probably on a hot, dusty road or field, standing next to Martha, who was torn with grief over the loss of her brother, watching her look into the eyes of Jesus, a teacher from Galilee, and telling him that she thinks he is the anointed one from God sent to save her.
What a moving moment! But.... Martha, for all her profession of faith, still doesn't quite get it. She's getting there, but has one last step to take.
A few minutes later, Jesus, moved by his love for Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, and His desire to glorify God and show those around that Jesus indeed had authority over life itself, went to the tomb with Martha and the others and told the people to roll the tombstone away from the entrance.
Martha, still not quite comprehending what Jesus was saying, that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead right now, tells Jesus, "There will be a bad smell, Lord. He has been buried four days!" She assumed Jesus wanted to see the body or something other than raise the dead man. Her faith was still limited to the scope of what she was able to understand. She had that one last step of faith to take.
Martha's last step to take was a step of obedience. Jesus had commanded the stone be rolled away. Martha objected and did not want to roll it away. Then Jesus said to her, "Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believed?" Martha still hadn't grasped Jesus' true nature and power over life and to forgive sins because of who he was.
Martha and Mary, along with those present, took that step of obedience, and moved the stone. Jesus told Lazarus to come out, and Lazarus staggered out of the tomb, still wrapped in the burial linen, but healthy and whole.
It is through obedience that faith grows. Even in the times of our worst loss, and our worse tragedy and sorrow, obedience to God, and faith in Jesus our Lord, are essential to joy through the sorrow, and peace through the grief, and to understanding that God is working things always in our best interest and to glorify Himself.
Knowing that Jesus is not only Lord of my life, but has the power to give me eternal life, and that in Him I have my treasure which is not perishable is an ever present comfort.
In my life I've not experience great losses, for the most part. I've not had to put my faith through the fiery test of depression and anguish that comes with losing very close loved ones. What with the aging of my parents and family, I am poised to experience such loss in the not to distant future.
I have, however, experienced marriage problems, separation, and will go through the actual divorce very soon, and I've experienced the loss of an intact family and the horrible disruption that causes. Through it all, I found that is was my faith that sustained me. Having the long picture, the "leaning on the everlasting arms" perspective, helped sustain me and keep me going.
Having that "long perspective", that Jesus lives and has granted me an eternal life, gives me faith and hope, which in turn gives me peace, continues to make life not only worth living, but a joy to live.