Jesus, Why Did You Stay Away? (Gospel of John Series)

April 25, 2022

Editor’s Note: This is the first post of a short new series based on the gospel of John. We recently studied John together as a women’s ministry, and we wanted to share a few stories of encouragement from it!

During our recent study of John in our women’s ministry bible studies, John 11:5-6 stood out to me in a particular way: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

I’m in a season of change right now. Sometimes it feels like a perpetual season, as a lot of life has happened in the last few years. But right now in particular, things are on the brink of a whole new chapter. I have given birth to my first child. My job and my husband’s job are at places of transition. We are leaving Covenant in a few short months to go on the Malvern church plant. We will be outgrowing our beloved first apartment. Lots of change. 

In times of transition, my natural response is to feel out of control and fearful as I struggle to trust exactly what God is doing. Often I pray for what I think would be the best possible result, and then become confused when something else happens and all my careful and meticulous planning goes by the wayside. Sometimes the outcome feels more like a punishment than a blessing. My emotions line up with what I imagine Mary and Martha felt in this story about their sick brother. If Jesus really loves me, why did he stay away? They both cried out to Jesus, saying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, 32). We often feel, if Jesus had just moved a little sooner, we would have been spared a world of hurt. 

This story of Lazarus encourages my soul in these times of confusion and wondering and waiting because when I read the passage, I get to see the whole picture of how Jesus moves. He stayed away because he loved Mary and Martha. He wanted them to see God’s glory, and power, and the hope of true resurrection. He wanted them to believe in him so that they might have eternal life. He wanted to perform a miracle beyond what their hearts could imagine. And so he waited, because of love. 

When I am tempted to fear or mistrust Jesus’ plan for me, especially at times of a million unknowns, I remember this story. When I see my baby and wonder what the future holds, I remember how Jesus loves me. When I sit down to do the budget and worry about jobs and finances and how to buy a house, I think about how Jesus wants to perform miracles far beyond the tiny little earthly dreams I often limit myself to. His timing is perfect, his love is boundless, and in the end not even death can hinder him. 

I pray that we can all hold this story deep inside us, firm in the truth that Jesus had a purpose in staying away, and that purpose was love. Be encouraged sister! He will not stay away forever. And when he comes, miracles follow.

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