I could never imagine to count up the number of times someone has said something along the lines of ‘If there really was a God, he wouldn’t let this happen.’ This is a very common feeling among those who don’t believe. Often, such feelings rise from experiencing some sort of personal tragedy, perhaps the death of a loved one. Witnessing horrible things in this broken world can easily spring forth doubt. In fact, even the strongest of believers will at some point experience this thought, even if only for a moment.
Martha was a hard working servant of Jesus. In fact there’s a story about her and her sister Mary where Martha is working so hard she gets frustrated with her sister who is just listening to Jesus. That story is for another blog however. Martha and Mary had a brother named Lazarus whom Jesus was very fond of. In fact when they two sisters brought word to Jesus that he was ill, they are quoted as saying “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
It is on this occasion that we see an example of both extreme unbelief and extreme faith in the same person, actually even in the same statement. By the time Jesus had traveled back to see Lazarus, he “had already been in the tomb for four days.” (John 11:17) But as we will see from this passage, Jesus was not late… He never is.
Martha is mourning the loss of her brother when Jesus arrives to the home and in her frustration she says, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (v21) Despite her strong faith in Jesus and understanding of His power, she still has doubt at this moment. She was actually blaming Jesus’ tardiness for the death of her brother. But her lack of faith was short lived for her very next sentence was, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (v22)
Having doubt does not mean you are absent of the Spirit, it means you are human. Even the strongest of Christians will have periods of doubt. Our brains simply cannot fathom His ways all the time so we can become frustrated when we don’t understand His methods. Sometimes we will grasp it later, other times we will have no clue this side of Heaven. Having that doubt is not denying Christ. But knowing His will be done, despite our lack of understanding… now that is real faith.
Martha could not comprehend why Jesus took so long to come. She could not grasp why Jesus would allow Lazarus to die. She was even frustrated. But despite all of that emotion, she still knew that nothing was beyond His power. She also recognized that it was not about what she wanted, but what Jesus asked of the Father.
Have you had a significant tragedy in your life? One big enough to cause you to question God? You’re not alone. But when you turn to Him in your lack of faith, and trust Him anyway… that is when you finally experience the power of real faith.
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