Mary and Martha’s trust

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photo credit: Big Grey Mare Tree Planted By The Water via photopin (license)

In John 11 we read the famous text where Mary and Martha face the death of their brother Lazarus. While he is ill and dying, the first thing they’re reported doing is sending for Jesus. In this passage, they trust Jesus completely–they are sure even after their brother’s passing, that if Christ had been there, he would have saved Lazarus from dying. Some may be tempted to fault Christ for not being there, and accuse him of waiting on purpose until he had created an opportunity for an even flashier miracle. However, reading the text, a lot of people in this family’s area were bent on killing Jesus. He had a legit cause to decline to go. From the disciples’ reaction, it still wasn’t safe for him to be there when he did risk going down there for the funeral. How many of us today wait until the funeral to show up when we have far less at risk than our lives?

Now, depending on who is preaching this text, and what point they’re trying to make, often, Martha either has total trust in Jesus or expresses continual doubt. In reality, she has total trust in Jesus and is struggling to believe he’ll do the impossible for her. For real, how many Christians today would have cremated their brother Lazarus by day four? How many of us, knowing Christ is with us always, so much as ask him to raise the dead? Don’t we have faith? So does Martha. It’s not her faith that is limiting her, it’s her expectations. I.E. we have faith that God can. But we still struggle to believe he will.

What Christ offers her–a brother risen again not in a distant future, but right now–it’s everything she hopes and longs for and her grieving heart is instinctively guarded against disappointment. Since reason tells us even today the dead don’t normally get up again after the doctors have given up on reviving them. Does it happen? Yes, but it’s rare.

The remarkable thing here is nowhere does Christ chide them for their battle between faith and fear and doubt. At the height of it, in fact, seeing their need to grieve, he weeps with them. Knowing what he is going to do, he takes time to emphasize with them and feel with them the painful loss they’re already enduring. Just in case we all think he is instead throwing himself a sinful pity party about their “sinful” grief, the Jews’ reaction to his expression makes it clear he is stopping in the middle of his plans to resurrect Lazarus to grieve the death of his friend.

In doing so, he gives a precious gift to all of us, especially anyone exposed to the false teachings that condemn grief. Christ, who knew no sin, who had absolute faith in the Father and knew what he was himself going to do beyond all doubt, took time to process his grief at the loss of his friend to the grave before calling him out of it. He knows your need to process your pain, grieving heart, he has experienced it, too, and he was without sin.

And Martha, despite her hostess concerns about exposing her guests to the stench of a corpse, did believe in what the Lord could do enough to go along with opening the tomb. So, yes, Martha and her sister Mary trusted in and had faith in Christ even in the dark turmoil of their grief, and no less so for their grief or their battles with fear and doubt.

One last note on trust. According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone. While we often believe it is wrong to distrust humans, we have good company in it. During his earthly ministry, Jesus didn’t entrust himself to humans. And John means what he says, that was Christ obeying scripture. (See John 2:23-25) I did a keyword search for “trust and man” on Biblegateway, it pulled up seventeen verses, and the general gist of virtually all of them is to command us to NOT trust humans, especially not yourself, the proud, strong men, military leaders, and politicians, and especially not for salvation.

Now, we should still love them, respect them, pray for them, etc. But not trust them. Our trust is to be in God alone. This can be of great comfort, looked at rightly. Can I trust this person? The Bible says no, they are fallen, they will let you down sooner or later. But God never will. He is with you, he loves you, and he will help you. Go forth in what God has called you to do, not because you can count on the people around you to always be there for you, but because God is always there for you.

 

[tweetthis]Mary and Martha’s trust[/tweetthis]

[tweetthis]According to the Bible, who should we trust? Answer: God alone[/tweetthis]

 

All Saints’ Eve (x5) Prayer Request

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New Author’s Fellowship has posted the second and third parts of my four-part testimony on some things God did while I worked on the novels of the Web Surfer Series, which has its collection of short stories, Avatars, out. Please go check out the cool things God taught me via that project:

Testimony 2: Offering Characters to God

Testimony 3: Exploring a Character’s Gender Identity (From a conservative Christian perspective.)

Two years ago today, in the shadow of All Saint’s Day, which is coming up on Nov 1, the pain and chains of this life were forced to release their hold on my mother, and she was born again in eternity. While she may be celebrating with the other saints, most of us left behind are still too busy missing her to properly share the saints’ joy. So please remember us in your prayers.

One thing I know, joy and peace are gifts from the Lord, and I thank God for those gifts, and the veiled glimpses of glory, despite all the trials and sorrows. The pain of this life won’t last forever, while the joy and peace that sometimes seem to slip through our hands will some day remain forever.

[tweetthis]All Saints’ Eve (X5) Prayer Request[/tweetthis]

Grief’s Wise Lesson

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“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” — Psalm 90:12

Grief often causes a “circling the wagons” reaction, automatically drawing together what is left. Sometimes we’d been letting the busyness of this age rob us of time with a loved one we’d always had a good relationship with. When that loved one dies, and we realize our mistake, such regret wells up, we feel compelled to warn everyone around us to stop letting busyness rob us of relationships that are far more important than the trivial things we’d pursued instead–or at least they seem so in the hour of grief.

Let’s take a step back and realize a few things. Firstly, sometimes, we were doing important work and just got out of balance. If we listen to grief, we risk ending up out of balance in the exact opposite direction and suffering for that.

Secondly, not everyone who hears the message, “spend more time with your loved ones. You never know when they’ll be gone” are in your situation. Some of them may have good reason to have separated from an abuser and cut off all contact. Indeed, God may have even told some to stay away from loved ones whose abuse tears down the work God is doing in them.

That may shock some of us. God values his masterpieces far more than we realize when we’ve been abused. I am sure it is never with joy that God tells someone to limit contact with someone else he loves, yet Christ meant it when he said “If your right hand offend you, cut it off. It is better to go Heaven maimed than to Hell whole.” When we are stronger, God may send us back, but it must come from God.

When we urge people to reconcile out of fear their loved one will die like ours did, we mean to protect them from the pain we endured. Instead, this can potentially end up being received as a guilt trip that would send an abuse victim back into a relationship that is spiritually harmful to them at this time. Let’s not do that.

Beyond that, I am concerned the classic appeal of grief may put on our friends a burden beyond their control: keeping their loved ones close to them. Not everyone has loved ones willing to do what it takes to have a real, honest, healthy relationship that is mutual, fair, and balanced. There are several different ways things could be dysfunctional, and we can’t do anything about anyone but us.

So I propose we look to God’s word for a healthier appeal in the face of grief: Praying Psalm 90:12. “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

It is healthier to respond to death by remembering our own time on this Earth may be over in an instant. We may not know what words we speak will be the last words we ever get to speak to someone we care about. We should prayerfully consider what actions we can take to leave good memories behind with those willing to take accountability for their own actions and be in a relationship where both forgive. It is better to count our own days than the days of those around us.

Each of us is accountable for only one life: our own. Let’s seek to live to leave the legacy of a child of God who counted our days and sought to give them all to the Lord. Let’s seek to leave the legacy of seeking to live to please God alone, to trust God in all things.