If you were to give God a grade for how He's doing these days, what grade would you give Him?
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." 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 11:1-6)
Dangerous question, right? We can answer it so emotionally, one way or the other.
Most people opt for a "Pass/Fail" system. Either He's doing the job we all expect of Him, or He isn't. Others might grade on the typical "A, B, C, D, F" system. Someone clever might even throw in the "E" to indicate they feel He's turned in incomplete work.
Or at least, we think He has.
So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him."(John 11:14-15)
We need blind sass to even consider such things, don't we? For it's our bent to look at a question like this through our own sense of history alone. We say, "I'd give God an 'A' for sunsets and summers, but when someone I loved died for no reason whatsoever I decided He deserves nothing more than an 'F' in my book."
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (John 11:17-21)
There is nothing a person can say in response to that kind of declaration. At least, nothing adequate. That person is making an emotional statement, and so they feel "right" in the tremendous loss they are experiencing... because a tremendous loss should create a tremendous reaction.
It's why Jesus wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus before He raised Him up from the grave.
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.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" (John 11:33-36)
Because death is tragic...
but it isn't the end of the Story.
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?" (John 11:38-40)
This isn't just some religious idea or something we chew on to feel better. This means that literally every horrible thing that has ever happened will one day become a part of a greater perspective... like when you've been unemployed for a while and suddenly get a job, making you appreciate that blessing all the more. In some way the experience of heaven will become even more joyful because of the way the pain and darkness has been finally outmatched by the healing and the Light that is Jesus.
This is the ultimate defeat of evil and suffering, and it can begin our hearts when we begin to unleash the truth of it in our lives. Such a reference point for hope can offer perspective to the questions our hearts raise. That's why the Bible says "by faith" we see ahead with our soul what our eyes haven't yet taken in.
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." (John 11:41-42)
Sometimes when you get down the road of a tragedy and you look back, you realize that something was accomplished in tragedy. I say this with trembling and caution, though, for I'm not attempting to water down the very real pain that we experience when it happens. The world is broken by sin, so there are all kinds of things that God did not originally design the world to contain. His blueprints did not have hunger, earthquakes, rape, disease, or human death. Even from the perspective of eternity, we will look back and realize that much of the suffering that's occurred in our lives and in the world could have been avoided by human decision.
But we are intended to look back from a new vantage point... one that doesn't give God a grade based on the moment but on the curve of His Story.
In other words, just because you can't think of a good reason why God hasn't stopped the pain in this world yet doesn't mean there cannot be any. First you have to acknowledge that the meaninglessness you feel in the face of suffering is part of the fact that we are not created for these things and now we are facing them. Then we have to acknowledge that our vantage point is not everything.
Which makes what God *has* done all the more powerful.
When he had said this, 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 11:43-44)
The Lord entered the suffering world as its Savior, living the best life possible and yet being punished in the worst way conceivable. The cross shows that He loves us, because if He didn't love us He wouldn't have gotten involved... He is not indifferent to us by any means. As Jesus, God has suffered, and we can rest assured that that He shares our pain and knows our sufferings. God put into motion a proactive chain of events through the cross and the raising of Jesus from the dead... a chain of events that points to our ultimate hope of final restoration when we are finally united with God for eternity.
Still want to give God an 'F' based on your vantage point? Maybe you feel that's what He deserves.
I won't argue with your vantage point... because that is what it is and I'll give you the space to have it.
Perhaps tomorrow, though, your vantage point will increase. That's why I've written this post... to remind you that the way you see life today should grow tomorrow... not shrink or merely stay the same.
And it's possible to place your faith today in what you will place your faith in tomorrow.
Tune in tomorrow for the final word.