John 11:23-28 (Message) Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Master. All along I have believed that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who comes into the world.” After saying this, she went to her sister Mary and whispered in her ear, “The Teacher is here and is asking for you.”
Life is hard. It is not some fairytale with inevitable happy endings. Twists and turns along the way wrestle us for the hope held so tightly. Faith becomes heavy when the expected outcome is not the way things turn out. Yet somehow in the depths of our soul and crevices of broken hearts, there must be a place to keep the faith and hold on to hope in the midst of such devastation. To know that all things DO work together for the good of those who love the Lord. (Romans 8:28) The plan and purpose of God for us is prevalent. It will not be circumvented or overturned and sometimes that means suffering. Sometimes it requires loss and hardship to harvest the wealth of faith and hope necessary to endure to the end. Without death, there can be no resurrection – naturally, supernaturally or even spiritually.
In November 2014, I arrived home from our son’s successful bone marrow transplant with a couple weeks to execute our oldest daughter’s fairytale wedding. Sadly, I would soon learn that my birth mother had passed away unexpectedly. Her body succumbed to years of alcoholism. Overwhelmed and overwrought, I sealed the pain and emotions of a relationship that would never be renewed or restored in my heart and trudged on with life. I loved my mom. She loved me. Yet, her addiction caused painful years of separation for both of us. I did not attend her small memorial. Her ashes remained with family.
I received a message from my cousin yesterday. My mother’s long time husband and constant companion had passed away. He was our stepfather for a number of years. A good man with a huge heart. Now I must open the sealed pain and emotions again. Five years later, I can do this. My heart has healed. My hope renewed. God is good! Yet, I am so very sad at the unexpected outcome in this life. I longed for restoration of the relationship with my mother. I had hoped over the years something would change. It did not happen that way. Did God fail me? Did I not pray enough? All these “feelings” rise up within me as I must finally face these turn of events. I must decide in my heart to be thankful for the wonderful memories and praise God that both of these people have finally found peace.
Unexpected outcomes are a part of life. The disciples experienced it when they watched Jesus die on the Cross. Things did not end as they expected. They thought He came to rule and reign. To take back Israel. To end ruthless religion and finally set people free. Oh, Jesus did just what He came to do. He is everything that He promised to be and way more than anticipated. However, in the movements of everyday monotony called existing, it is sometimes hard to fully grasp and understand His Goodness and Faithfulness in the unexpected outcomes of life.
Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus had died. He was in the tomb for three days now. Martha was dealing with her grief by keeping busy as all Martha’s do. As she hurried to prepare meals and her home for the arriving guests, Jesus comes to her to offer hope. She really isn’t interested. She recites the words but the hope in her voice is gone. Jesus tells Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he may die, he will live.” Her response, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is come into the world.” Can I just interject? I am wondering here if this was an automated response just to get Jesus out of her hair. There are times when the Word of God does not offer comfort to a conflicted soul. She knew who He claimed to be but in that moment I am not entirely sure that is who she believed Him to be.
Matthew 11:1-6 (Message) When Jesus finished placing this charge before his twelve disciples, he went on to teach and preach in their villages. John, meanwhile, had been locked up in prison. When he got wind of what Jesus was doing, he sent his own disciples to ask, “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” Jesus told them, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. “Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!”
John the Baptist was in prison. Things were not looking good for God’s Man. In fact, soon he would be beheaded. Things were definitely not turning out as expected. The outcome of his ministry and introduction of the Messiah surely would not cost him his life. Yes, my friend that is exactly what happened. Our focus on the natural sometimes overshadows the supernatural. Glossing over the Gospel may attract more people to the Cross but unless our lives are subject to it there will be no remission of sin or resurrection of the dead. The Cross was bloody. It was traumatic. It was hostile. It was offensive. It was the torture of an innocent man. It was all the things people hate in life but when Christ finished His Work on the Cross everything changed. Victory belongs to us because things didn’t go as expected. Eternal life is an option for those who embrace the unexpected outcome of the third day. Sometimes we must unseal the hurtful and painful containers in our life to allow His Resurrection Life and Power to revive us again.
All the emotions of losing my mom without full reconciliation still cause pain forcing tears from their hiding place. It is not the outcome I desired but my mom is at peace. Her life filled with so many hurts and disappointments yet now she is forever with Jesus – the Lover of her soul. Now her partner and confidant who I am certain was a little lost without her has joined her. Though the outcome was unexpected, the peace of God is not. God understands our human hearts. He knows that faith comprehension is a struggle since it is not based on what we see. The Lord will help you in your weakness trying to get a new grip on hope today. He’s not mad at you for not seeing it before. He completely understands. Did our Father consider in our creation that one day He would have to turn His Back on Jesus while all of sin and fury unleashed against Him? I believe God loves and desires us so much that He would do it all again.
If you are having some trouble with an unexpected outcome, I encourage you today to reach for your Heavenly Father. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. Seize your hope today with a death grip as though your life depends on it because it does. Ask the Lord to renew, restore and revive your faith today. Invite His Spirit to be your Comforter. Tomorrow is a new day! Joy is always promised in the morning. New mercies fresh on our doorstop ready to be taken. God is good! He has a Plan and Purpose. He will never lead us to disappointment.
Lamentations 3:22-24 (Message) God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.