Life has probably made you realize that having a relationship with God through faith in Jesus does not remove you from experiencing sickness, sorrow, pain, grief, and even death in this life. When you face difficult things, you may have moments when you question God’s love for you. So, how can you be certain that difficulties in life are not a removal of God’s love toward you?
In the gospel of John, a family of siblings, named Martha, Mary, and Lazarus experienced sickness, sorrow, pain, grief, and even death. Yet, God inspired the gospel writer repeatedly to record in the narrative that Jesus loved each of them.
“Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” (John 11:3)
“…although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (John 11:5)
“Our friend Lazarus” (John 11:11)
“See how much He [Jesus] loved him [Lazarus].” (John 11:36)
Do you allow difficult life situations to make you doubt God’s love for you?
God loves Martha, Mary, and Lazarus and they love God, but God allows sickness, sorrow, pain, grief, and death to enter their lives. Jesus’ love for them is evident not only to them individually but also to others who know them (reference John 11:36). So, why does God inspire the gospel writer to spend so much time in this narrative making sure you know God’s love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus is not in question? To gain some insight to this question, you may need to know more about this family’s life circumstances (reference John 11:1-44).
Lazarus is suffering from sickness. These three adult siblings are living together meaning most likely they never married. They live in the city of Bethany which was known as a poorer community on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Despite their difficult life circumstances, they know Jesus and they know Jesus loves them.
Martha and Mary send word to Jesus about Lazarus’s sickness. Jesus receives their message and decides to wait two days before traveling to them (reference John 11:6). Why would Jesus wait two days if Jesus dearly loves Martha, Mary, and Lazarus? Jesus chooses not to act “in time” and Lazarus dies. In fact, by the time Jesus does arrive, Lazarus has been dead and in the tomb four days (reference John 11:39).
Both Martha and Mary communicate their belief that Jesus could have kept Lazarus from dying, but Jesus didn’t (John 11:21, 32). There is no indication in the passage that Martha or Mary doubted Jesus’ love for each of them or Lazarus, but they do seem disappointed that Jesus didn’t come through for their family in this situation.
Jesus’ delay prolonged Martha and Mary’s sorrow and grief and Lazarus died. However, Martha’s faith in Jesus does not waver. Martha says to Jesus, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” (John 11:22) Martha knows Lazarus has been dead four days. Yet, Martha believed Jesus could change her family’s situation if Jesus prayed to God on their behalf. Martha’s certainty in Jesus is unbelievable!
Publicly, Jesus declares who He is and asks Martha if she believes in Him despite the death of her brother, Lazarus.
Jesus told her [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” John 11:25-27
Unbeknownst to Martha and Mary, Jesus took time to explain to His disciples that God had a greater purpose for this family experiencing sickness, sorrow, pain, grief, and death. The greater purpose is the glory of God, the Father and that the Son of God, Jesus be glorified as well (reference John 11:4).
Jesus knows that when He raises Lazarus from the dead, the religious leaders will intensify their efforts to kill Jesus, which will ultimately bring glory to God, the Father through Jesus’ own death, burial, and resurrection. Even Jesus’ disciples warn Jesus not to return to Judea to help this family that He loves because of the possibility of Jesus being stoned to death (reference John 11:8).
However, Jesus explains that He came to earth to fulfill God, the Father’s purposes. Jesus will finish the work that the Father has sent Him to do. Jesus explains that while it is daylight, He has His Father’s work to accomplish regardless of His disciples’ warning about His safety (reference John 11:9-10). Jesus knows that Lazarus’ death and resurrection will result in more people believing in Him and bring God glory.
For Martha and Mary and all those present, Jesus declares who He is. Jesus pronounces, “I am the resurrection and the life” but also, He demonstrates His power over death. Death is not what God intended when He created life. Death is the enemy of God and life. Thankfully, death cannot resist Jesus because Jesus has authority over death (reference John 10:17-18 and John 11:40-44).
Jesus accomplished His miraculous work (i.e., the resurrection of Lazarus) but Jesus asked the people present to help Lazarus become “unbound” from his graveclothes (reference John 11:44). God does the miraculous work of resurrecting “dead” people to life, making them alive through faith in Jesus. Jesus is the source of life. However, God allows others to help with the human earthly things that keep these “alive” people “bound.”
At Courage For Life, we help individuals with the earthly things that bind them emotionally and spiritually. We create digital and print resources to support those who have been made alive through faith in Jesus yet need help with emotional healing and spiritual growth because of the things of this world that have them bound such as trauma, abuse, addition, and incarceration.
Jesus loves you regardless of the difficulties you experience in this life! There is no reason to doubt Jesus’ love for you, even when difficult things invade your life. You can be certain that in the presence of difficult situations, Jesus is deeply moved and weeps with you and for you (reference John 11:33, 35). How can you be certain of this? Because Jesus wept and identified with others in their grief. Jesus is moved by Martha, Mary, and others’ tears, so He enters their grief with them. When Jesus arrives at Lazarus’ tomb, He groans in His Spirit (reference John 11:38). The Greek word used in John 11:38 is different than the words in John 11:33 (grief) and John 11:35 (wept). This word comes with a sense of Jesus’ anger and indignation about death. Death is an enemy that robs from you the way God designed and intended life to be. But Jesus has power over death.
Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. Hebrews 2:14-15
Faith in Jesus, the Son of God is the basis for your certainty.
Martha has faith in Jesus, not a specific outcome or a favorable response for her family’s situation. Martha believes Jesus can do something about her situation. Do you believe in Jesus and that Jesus can do something about your situation? Your faith is in a person, Jesus, not in a specific outcome. Your faith is in a person, Jesus who died and bodily resurrected. Jesus connected His body and His blood to His resurrection to demonstrate He has power over death and to make it certain for you that Jesus is your source of life.
At Courage For Life, we believe Jesus offers everyone a full and satisfying life, but not everyone embraces it. We’ve found that many struggle with difficult life experiences, which often leave them “bound” emotionally and unable to fully embrace the abundant life given to them through faith in Jesus. Therefore, we develop emotional health, spiritual growth, and Bible study resources to help anyone embrace the life God intended for them. Jesus is your source of life. Courage For Life wants to help you embrace life fully and see the glory of God!
Watch the LIVE REPLAY to learn more about how difficult life circumstances are not a reason to doubt that Jesus loves you. Join us LIVE every Monday at 3 p.m. ET on @GodGivesCourage Instagram for our Spiritual Growth Series and check back here on Tuesdays for the companion blog post.