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Friday, April 30, 2010

Four Days Waiting in Line

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

We spend a lot of time waiting. I’m an information junkie and went online to get some statistics...

The average person spends 6 years waiting for …lights to turn green, a person rather than a machine to answer their phone call, lines to move forward. We are in the military. Imagine soldiers who wait a half an hour every morning to get to work on a military post. I figured out that if you have to wait a half an hour five days a week, 4 weeks a month and 12 months a year and take out 2 weeks for vacation, you will spend FOUR DAYS out of ONE YEAR waiting in line at a military gate. That’s a lot of waiting.

In the military, spouses wait. We wait on orders, we wait on promotions, we wait for household goods, we wait for our husbands to deploy and we wait for them to return. We waited 4 months for our unaccompanied baggage to get to the States from Germany.

You may be waiting for a baby to sleep through the night or a toddler to stop throwing tantrums or a teenager to pick up their room. Day to day things that may not seem like much but that wear on you.

I just finished a novel about waiting, a novel about Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, based on Luke 11:1-43. I used to think of the story of Lazarus as mostly an account of resurrection. Which it is. But it is also a story about waiting. I love this account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It teaches us so much about our own humanity. I love the disciples. We see their human side.

When Jesus told the disciples that he was going back to Bethany, they immediately started trying to talk him out of it. "But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?"

When Jesus tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep, but He’s going back to wake him up, the disciples then think they'll give Jesus advice.

“Lord, if he sleeps, he’ll get better.”

Clearly, the disciples did NOT want to go back to Bethany. So, finally dear Thomas, who probably wasn’t the most naturally brave of them all says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Can’t you just see Thomas? Squaring his shoulders, sitting up straight and, realist that he was, determining already in his mind that Jesus was going to die if he went to see Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Jesus doesn’t just wait a day or two after Lazarus died. No, he waits 4 days after Lazarus died.

So, we have Jesus who seems to have taken his time and arrived too late. We have disciples who are trying to give the Son of God advice and talk him out of his plans. We have sisters, dear friends of Jesus, who are grieving.

What does God teach us about waiting?

1) Waiting teaches us that God understands us and grieves with us even though He already knows the outcome. Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead. Yet, when he came to Bethany and saw the sorrow of Mary and the others, he wept with them. God knows our frailty.

2) Waiting teaches us who is in control. It might seem sometimes like our circumstances are in control, or governments are in control, or any number of things (even our emotions!) but ultimately, the God of the Universe is the one in control. This is one of the foundations of my faith. I can trust a God who has an ultimate purpose for my life and that purpose is to conform me to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Look at Thomas What did he do? He assumed the worst, didn’t he? He thought about the “What if?” and assumed that they would all die. How often do we get way ahead of God’s purposes and assume the worst? We need to wait expectantly for all of the amazing things God will do so that we can say, “God’s hand has surely done this!”

3) Waiting teaches us to go on with life. This is one of the hardest of life's lessons. Mary and Martha had to go on with life while they waited for Jesus to come. They had to go through the ritual of preparing their brother’s body and burying him. There was more to the grief than just that Jesus didn’t come “in time.” Jesus was a dear friend. They wanted to see him in person.

4) Waiting teaches us that God is purposeful in every thing He does, even when He seems to delay.

From the very beginning, Jesus stated His purpose: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Luke 11:4

When Martha and Mary both say, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died,” I used to think they were reproaching Jesus for not coming. However, read what Martha says next : “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Luke 11:21, 22 What an acknowledgement of who Jesus was and is!

Where are you today? Are you waiting on circumstances to change? Be encouraged! God knows, he empathizes with you, and he has a plan. It is for God's glory that God's Son may be glorified through it!


  1. Irene, This is so beautifully written. Thank you so much. It seems like I am always waiting for naps to start, for naps to finish, for temper tantrums to end, for orders, for the weekend, for a trip that I'm looking forward to. I've never thought of waiting and what it means in the Biblical sense. I feel encouraged and now I'll be waiting for your next post!

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I agree with Jamie; beautifully written. I'm terrible with waiting. Terrible.

    Praying daily for patience.