Today's gospel reading is a familiar
story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It's a story
about healing, it's a story about faith, and it's a story
about God's love for his children.
And imbedded within this story is a
profoundly important question, "Where are you God?"
Essentially Martha was asking Jesus where he had been. "If you
had been here, my brother would not have died," she said. She
was upset, her brother Lazarus had died and she knew that if
Jesus would have been just been there, Lazarus might still be
Mary, also upon her arrival to the
tomb, fell at Jesus feet and said, "Lord, if you had been
here, my brother would not have died."
The questions being asked by Mary and
Martha are typical questions we the faithful ask in times of
need, suffering, and uncertainty. Where are you God, becomes
our battle cry as we so desperately want a loved one to see
the error of their ways, to be freed from suffering, or to be
healed from a life-changing illness.
I sensed this question being asked
several months ago by some who were present at my
Grandmother's funeral. Oh God, where were you when Nannie
needed you most? I hurt, death seems so permanent, and I want
assurance Nannie went to heaven.
And we hear similar questions being
asked throughout the world, by both the believer and
non-believer. Where are you God, as war and conflict have
become the norm in my country? Where are you God as my loved
one suffers with cancer? Where are you God, when I am in need
of food and shelter? Where are you God in my time of
uncertainty and hopelessness? Where are you God as my son
seems to be wondering hopelessly looking for purpose? This
question, "Where are you God," more so than any other question
tests our faith to the very core.
So why didn't Jesus rush to Lazrus
side in his time of need, after all Lazrus was one of Jesus'
best friends. Did Jesus really love his family and friends or
is the Bible simply giving lip service to these hallmarks of
The truth is Jesus loved his family
and he loved the family of Lazrus. In fact he stayed with them
often. Jesus knew their pain, as he knows ours, but he didn't
respond immediately to their request. But we can be assure
that his delay in responding did have a purpose, a divine
God's timing, especially his delays,
may make us think he's not answering questions, or is not
answering our requests the way we want him to. But God will
meet all our needs according to his perfect schedule and
I can think of several times in my own
life when I had a need and I asked God to fulfill it. Well, in
most cases God didn't respond right away. Sometimes I got mad,
I couldn't understand why God wouldn't meet my need.
Then I can remember God meeting my
need at a later date. And when I think about those
circumstances I can say, "thankfully God did not meet my need
when I wanted him to because, as it turns out, either that
wasn't what I really needed, or it would have created more of
a problem then I was encountering at that time." But God did
meet my need, at a time and place when it was appropriate.
Maybe you have experienced this same
sort of thing. Some of you have shared joys in your life with
me, and in many of those cases I can remember praying for
those needs a few months before, in one setting or another. We
sometimes forget, as we are rejoicing, that the joy is a
result of a prayer request made months or even years before.
God was present, God did hear, and God did respond.
After having a couple of these
experiences myself, the light bulb finally went on and I
realized, it's not an issue of God meeting our needs, that
will happen, the issue is placing our trust in God knowing
that he will meet our needs when it makes sense from Gods
perspective. God carries the big picture of our lives around
in his wallet, so God knows best what we need and when we need
We also have to be open to this
understanding and look at how God does work in our lives. All
too often we focus on the negative rather than the positive.
It's the glass half full or half empty analogy. No doubt about
it God is at work among us all the time. The question is, are
our eyes and hearts open to his presence?
It's difficult for people, not raised
as Christians, to recognize and worship a God who seems to
allow pain and suffering to come to those he professes to love
and care for. And regrettably this is one reason people today
find it hard to come to the Christian faith. They can't grasp
the concept that it's God's timing not ours, God is in control
Of course we know that God does not
cause the pain and suffering, but you can see very easily how
someone from outside the faith looking in might see things
from a totally different perspective. This is also true of
those folks who are Christian but chose to live their lives on
the fringe of the faith.
In our fast paced society and apparent
high sense of urgency about life, we are looking for the
quick, highly visible, and easy answers for life's problems,
so that we can keep moving forward. Because we are so
competitive today, we are afraid if we slow down too long, to
gain knowledge or understanding, our competition will pass us
by, or we're afraid we'll be viewed as lazy or weak.
And I can relate to this pretty well.
Some say I have a type "A" personality. And most of you know
me pretty well by now and know that I am competitive in
certain arenas, and I do like to have a lot of balls in the
air and be constantly moving. This is just the way I am.
Although I prefer to think of myself more as a type B+ rather
than an A.
But anyway, I understand why some
people who have no faith find it difficult to accept the
Christian faith, because on the surface it looks, sounds and
feels like a passive faith. They equate the Christian faith to
sitting in Church on Sunday morning, rather than seeing the
faith as an active lifestyle. Therefore, Christianity isn't
the kind of thing that gets their motors revved.
But the truth is Christianity is not
passive it's very much active because it is a lifestyle that
is full of action. And it's in the midst of all this action
that we find God working in us, through us, and with us; often
times quietly behind the scenes. This is the message we need
to communicate to a very active generation of people.
attitude seeps over to our spiritual life as well. We want
answers and we want them now. And for heavens sakes the
answers must be easy to understand, requiring little thought
But it doesn't happen this way. We
can't simply pick up one book whether it be the "Bible" or a
"How to be a Christian" book and get all you need to know in
just a few short hours. Christianity is not like a math class,
where once you take the class you know how to add and
When we take a birds eye view of
Christianity we begin to realize it takes a lifetime of study
and practice to only begin to understand, it's a lifestyle
requiring study, worship, prayer, and fellowship to
comprehend. And just when we think we understand, God throws
us a curve ball, requiring us to study, worship, pray, and
fellowship some more.
It's a continual cycle or process that
grows our faith, and moves us to a deeper and meaningful
relationship with God. And for this effort what do we get, a
house, a boat, a vacation, no? We receive the blessings of
joy, peace, a life full of hope, and the ability to deal with
difficult situations. We also receive the very real blessing
of recognizing God's presence among us. Our senses are better
tuned to God's ever-present spirit.
A woman standing next to the bed of
her sick child raised her arms and look to the heavens crying
out, "Where are you God?" God replied, "I'm down here among my
people." I'm with the doctors and nurses who are taking care
of your child, prolonging her life, and making her
I'm here with those who are bringing
you your meals, so you can stay by your child's bedside. I'm
with your husband as he paces the hallways looking for
answers. I'm with your church as they pray for you and your
family daily. I'm with you as I feel and hear your pain.
"Are you with my child God?" "Yes I
am. Know that I am with your child throughout this ordeal and
I will welcome her into my heavenly kingdom to reside for all
eternity. I will also be with you following your child's death
until you are reunited with her for all time." Where are you
God? "I'm here among my people."
This illustration, is a common one,
and one many of us can relate to. Perhaps it's not a child
dying but a spouse, a loved one, a friend, or even a pet. This
story is played out many times every day. The question of
"where is God," is asked, perhaps not verbally, but is asked
in our hearts, time and time again.
Is there anything wrong with asking
this question? I don't think so, as long as we remain open to
the answer, and recognize God is all around us, in the people
we encounter, and in the situations that come our way.
The truth is because God is our
creator; he knows everything about us, including our needs.
And God is intimately involved with all aspects of the world
he created, and wants to be intimate and active in our lives
God, the creator of all things, points
to the world and says, "I have enough power to create all of
this. Don't you think I have enough power to address the
things and situations in your life?"
Reflect on this statement for just a
moment. God says, "I have enough power to create all of this.
Don't you think I have enough power to address the things and
situations in your life?"
If we believe God created this entire
earth, created us as well, and allowed his son to die for us,
why wouldn't we think he has the power and the desire to meet
our needs as well.
How soon we forget that God has
promised to be with us always, even when we have a need and we
don't feel it's being met, or is not being met as we conceived
it being met.
As Christians we live with God's
promise that he is always with us. Wherever we are, whatever
we do, and whatever we are going through, God is there feeling
and seeing all that we do. God is our anchor, God is our hope,
and God is there when everyone one else fails us.
Oswald Chambers said, "Whenever we
have difficulty, we are in danger of blaming God. But in
reality it's not God who is wrong, it's us. As long as we
strive to serve two ends, God, and ourselves, there is
perplexity. Our attitude must be one of complete reliance on
God. When once we get there, there is nothing easier than
living the saintly life. Difficulty comes when we want to
seize the authority of the Holy Spirit for our own ends."
Just look around, God is among us
today. God was present in the baptism we took part in this
morning. God is present in the smiles we greet one another
with. God is present in the kind word we offer to one another.
God is present in the comfort we provide to a friend or family
member in need.
God where are you? "I'm here among my