Now a certain man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village where Mary and her sister Martha lived…the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, look, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:1,3)
Lazarus, Mary and Martha were close friends of Jesus who lived a couple of miles from Jerusalem. At the time of this event, Jesus was on the other side of the Jordan River, a full day’s journey from Bethany.
Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. (John 11:5-6)
Now that doesn’t make any sense. In this day of quick-response rescue teams, everyone knows that when someone is seriously ill, delays can be fatal. But Jesus stayed where he was for another two days! What was going on in his mind?
Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
“But, Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days… (John 11: 7-8, 14-15, 17)
[The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, pgs. 197-198]
As we look forward to this new adoption, I’ve found that Justice and I are having many detailed conversations about his own adoption. He has always been open with us on the details of his life in Ghana whenever we ask questions, but lately he has been bringing up the things he remembers during his adoption process on his own. We got into a heart-to-heart conversation the night of New Years Eve. He was ready to talk….and talk he did…..I enjoyed listening and asking him questions to keep our conversation going for about 45 minutes straight with no interruptions from my other little red-heads who were asleep in the back seat.
There are so many details of God-stories woven into his little life from his time in Ghana. One such memory that he shared with me involved a very dark time in his life. And yet, during that time God provided a tiny tv set that was on the church channel each day that he was around it. He told me that each time it was on he would listen to the sermons and pray and pray that God would help him. I asked him if he knew God at that point. He said no, but that he believed God could help him. And help He did. It was during this time, June 2010, that Jake and I traveled to Ghana as advised by our agency at the time to ‘pick up’ Justice’s visa and bring him home. When the Embassy wouldn’t give us his visa and we realized that we were heading back to the U.S. without our son it was pretty hard to believe. In fact, it felt like a bad joke that someone was playing on us. Why God did you bring us all the way to Ghana fully knowing that his visa wasn’t ready? What was the point of all this? This doesn’t make any sense. I had never felt as much pain and broken-heartedness and anger and confusion as I had on that trip. I just could not understand what God was doing.
In fact, from our measly perspective the whole situation looked bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I felt awful that we had given such hope to Justice that he was going home, only to have to break the news to him that he actually couldn’t board the plane with us. I felt like a fool that had been tricked by the system. Yep, from every angle things looked bad and wrong.
But what we didn’t know was that our coming was actually God answering Justice’s prayers that he had prayed each day listening to tv church. Because, through all of the events that followed, he was taken out of the dark situation, and put in a loving home in Ghana to await his visa which came months later. Had God not brought us to Ghana in June 2010, Justice would have continued to suffer for months without us ever knowing it. If you don’t know by now, evil people cover up. They hide and deceive. And sometimes they do a really good job of it. But God knows and God delivers from evil. At face value that trip made no sense to us. But through that seemingly bad situation, God was showcasing His power, and making faith personal to a little 6 year old boy. For your sake….so that you may believe….
There are situations and circumstances happening right now in our current adoption in which I am rehearsing these past times when God has so powerfully displayed His Sovereignty, even when we didn’t understand right away. Do you know what it feels like when your heart begins to fret? It’s like you hear something or get some sort of information and your entire body goes tense and pure anxiety takes over your insides. My shoulders get all tight and I start getting snappy and having a short fuse with anyone who crosses my path. I used to enjoy escaping anxiety-producing realities through a glass of wine or venting to a friend, but indulging in those options are the default of a heart that is not trusting God. Not relying on God.
Time and again my fretting heart needs to dwell on the truths that I am in a relationship with a God who has changed the minds of kings. His plans cannot be thwarted. He doesn’t say something and never do it. His words stand forever – FOREVER! He can bring rulers to naught and nations to rubble. He hardens hearts and softens hearts. He breathes spirit into a dead body and takes breath away from the living. He raises the dead to bring them new life again. He perceives our thoughts. He knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves. He appoints the times and places that we would live. And although many are the plans in a man’s heart, He alone directs a man’s course. Even this man. Me. These are just a few reasons why my fretting heart can be stilled in His power, whether it requires blind faith like June 2010 did, or trust steps out of the boat onto the stormy sea waters that are being required now.
We serve a God who is not far off. He is not distant. When my heart frets I need just run to Him. Into my closet I run – you may giggle at the thought but there I can meet with Him undistracted. I shut and lock the door where my Bible awaits. I open it and breathe in His promises. Spill my heart, my fears, my questions, my honesty in prayer. And there He meets me. In my junky closet with clothes waiting to be hung, stinky shoes on the shelf, dirty laundry in the basket. There I meet with the King of the Universe. He listens to my needs big and little, to my desires and dreams, to my worries and circling thoughts. I drop it all at His feet and he teaches my heart to say Lord, not what I want, but what You want. Not my will, but your will be done. It is only when I am at His feet that I can look up and see His Sovereignty come into focus over my life. And this is where I want to be afterall, under His ways and His promises and His power. Because His plans are much more grandeur than I could ever think up.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus, once more deeply moved came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone….Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
(John 11: 32-34, 38-41, 43-44)