When God Is Silent

Like Mary and Martha, we can easily believe that God could have done better for us in difficult situations, but if we trust His timing, all will be good.
John 11:1-44

A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in the town of Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This was the Mary who put perfume on the Lord and dried His feet with her hair. It was her brother Lazarus who was sick. The sisters sent word to Jesus, saying, “Lord, your friend is sick!” When Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness will not end in death. It has happened so that it will bring honor to God. And the Son of God will be honored by it also.”

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. But when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days. Then He said to His followers, “Let us go into the country of Judea again.” The followers said to Him, “Teacher, the Jews tried to throw stones at You to kill You not long ago. Are You going there again?” Jesus said, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walks during the day, he will not fall. He sees the light of this world. 10 If a man walks during the night, he will fall. The light is not in him.”

11 After Jesus had said this, He spoke again and said, “Our friend Lazarus is sleeping. I will go and wake him up.” 12 The followers said to Him, “If he is sleeping, he will get well.” 13 But Jesus meant Lazarus was dead. They thought He meant Lazarus was resting in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them, “Lazarus is dead. 15 Because of you I am glad I was not there so that you may believe. Come, let us go to him.”

16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to the other followers, “Let us go also so we may die with Jesus.”

17 When Jesus got there, He heard that Lazarus had been in the grave four days. 18 Bethany was about one-half hour walk from Jerusalem. 19 Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to give words of comfort about their brother.

20 Martha heard that Jesus was coming and went to meet Him. Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 I know even now God will give You whatever You ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again when the dead are raised from the grave on the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the One Who raises the dead and gives them life. Anyone who puts his trust in Me will live again, even if he dies. 26 Anyone who lives and has put his trust in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She answered, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God. You are the One Who was to come into the world.”

28 After Martha said this, she went and called her sister Mary. She said without anyone else hearing, “The Teacher is here and has sent for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up and went to Him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into their town. He was still where Martha had met Him.

31 The Jews had been in the house comforting Mary. They saw her get up and hurry out. They followed her and said, “She is going to the grave to cry there.” 32 Mary went to the place where Jesus was. When she saw Him, she got down at His feet. She said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Jesus saw her crying. The Jews who came with her were crying also. His heart was very sad and He was troubled. 34 He said, “Where did you lay Lazarus?” They said, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus cried. 36 The Jews said, “See how much He loved Lazarus.” 37 Some of them said, “This Man opened the eyes of the blind man. Could He not have kept this man from dying?”

38 Jesus went to the grave with a sad heart. The grave was a hole in the side of a hill. A stone covered the door. 39 Jesus said, “Take the stone away.” The dead man’s sister, Martha, said to Him, “Lord, by now his body has a bad smell. He has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say that if you would believe, you would see the shining-greatness of God?”

41 They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You for hearing Me. 42 I know You always hear Me. But I have said this for the people standing here, so they may believe You have sent Me.”

43 When He had said this, He called with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The man who had been dead came out. His hands and feet were tied in grave clothes. A white cloth was tied around his face. Jesus said to the people, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go!”

 

In times of urgent need, our prayers become fervent and our desire for a quick answer intensifies. It seems that if the Lord doesn’t intervene soon, the very thing we dread could happen. And without a detectable response from God, we may feel as if He doesn’t care—even though Scripture assures us He does (Give all your worries to Him because He cares for you. 1 Pet. 5:7).

This may have been the way Mary and Martha felt after asking Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. They knew that the Lord loved them, but when He didn’t show up in time, their pain overtook their faith, and they both voiced disappointment: “If You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, John 11:32).

We have all said or thought something similar when the Lord didn’t answer our prayers as we hoped. But we know from Scripture that God’s purpose in all His choices for us is His glory (John 11:4 above). His goal is not to inflict pain unnecessarily but to let Christ’s life shine through us in hardship, to stabilize our confidence in the Father’s goodness, and to strengthen our trust in His loving sovereignty. His glory is for our good, and in this we can rejoice.

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