[John 11] Mary knew Jesus. She knew what it was to sit in His presence and hang on His every word (Luke 10:38-42). She knew that He loved her. She knew that He cared. And so, when her brother fell ill, she and her sister Martha called for the Teacher that they knew was the Healer: “Lord, he whom You love is ill” (John 11:3).
Did Mary wait, confident at first of her Lord’s imminent arrival? When did her confidence give way to confusion? When did her patience fade to heartache? When did her hope crash blindly into disappointment?
Jesus delayed until her brother’s failing body succumbed to death.
I wonder if grief crumpled her in the same place that she’d once knelt at the Lord’s feet. I wonder if she stared hard at the place where He had once sat in her home, if she willed herself to remember, to believe it had been real. I’d wager that she lost more than her brother that day. I’d be willing to bet that—at least for a moment—she also lost her confidence in the One she knew could have healed him.
Here’s the thing. We can know Jesus. We can be absolutely certain that He is good. We can be perfectly confident that He is near. We can know the joy of sitting at His feet. We can have the faith that looks to Him first when our brother falls ill–when the relationship or the job or the dream starts failing.
And we can still feel the sting of loss when He doesn’t respond the way that we expected.
I wonder if you have felt that loss. I don’t know what might have dropped you to the ground…fear, illness, grief, guilt, shame. I don’t know if someone did something to you or if you think you brought it on yourself. But I know that it hurts to lose the confidence you once had in your God.
Where do you go with all that pain? What do you do with all that confusion?
Four days after their brother’s body was laid in the grave, word came to the sisters that Jesus was on His way. Martha went to Him as soon as she heard. But Mary didn’t. Mary didn’t move until her sister returned to her “saying in private, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you’” (John 11:28).
I know what it is to sit paralyzed in a place where you once knew the Lord. I know what it is to silence your prayers rather than risk feeling ignored. I know what it is to resist hope for fear of disappointment.
And I know the sweetness of a sister who will drop to her knees beside you and whisper, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” Our Lord is near. He hasn’t left you all alone. He hasn’t forgotten. He didn’t ignore. I have been with Him, and He still loves you. You are still so welcome at His feet.
You may have lost sight of Him, but He has never taken His eyes off of you.
It was only after Martha spoke her invitation that Mary rose to seek Him. Exhausted and angry and desperately sad, she landed at His familiar feet and said to Him, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). She finally threw herself at the feet of the One she adored, and she wept. I suspect her grief was mixed with just a hint of relief that the Lord had not forgotten her, that He really had come near, that He had asked for her.
Mary’s tears moved Him. He asked where Lazarus had been laid, and then two words of Scripture shatter any doubt of Jesus’ humanity: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Might our grief move the very heart of God? Might He weep with us, too? Might the very brokenness of our own hearts be a reflection of His?
Mary’s story gets really good, but it seems somehow wrong to move forward too quickly. Sometimes we need a moment to weep in the presence of a Savior who weeps with us. Sometimes we need a minute at His feet to confess a broken faith in a perfect God. To hurt and to know we are held.
In case you sit paralyzed, afraid to hope that He might be near, let mine be the voice of a sister reminding you that the Teacher is here and is calling for you.You are so welcome at His feet. I whisper it with a heart still tendered by my own recent fear that it might not be true. I whisper it with a heart relieved to rest again in the presence of the One who really has been here all along.
Bring your fear and your doubt and your disappointment. Bring your anger and your failure and your shame.
Fall at the feet of the One whose love is perfect even when our faith is not.