For three days, poor Lazarus lay lifeless in his tomb in Bethany. His dreams and aspirations lay entombed in a shallow grave. His sisters, Mary and Martha, cried their eyes out on the loss of their only brother. Their distress call to Christ informing him of Lazarus’ illness couldn’t hurry the roving messiah to their tent.
Why was Christ late in coming to save Lazarus? What kept him at a far distance until his friend died? Although Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem where Christ stayed, why did he stay more harrowing days before heeding the urgent sick call? And when he finally did, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four day.
I believe the same questions were on the lips of Mary and Martha. And when Jesus finally arrived Bethany, four days after Lazarus has been buried, Martha betrayed her disappointment when she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (John 11:21).
Have you ever waited for God to show up in your predicament and he failed? Have you felt abandoned despite the intensity of your prayers? Have your hopes and expectations been dashed, despite your faith and trust in God? Have you lost your loved ones, and watch death plunder the best of our land? Perhaps, you find yourself in a season of drought when it seems, that heaven has shut her gates of blessings. Have you knocked on doors and they never opened for you. Or have you asked for fish and got scorpion thrown at your feet? If you have experienced any of these challenges, then join me in this pilgrimage.
My faith was put to test some years ago, when my two young sisters had mental sickness that put my family on the spotlight. We sought solutions everywhere but never got reprieve. I prayed like Daniel yet these afflictions remained. I watched helplessly as my family sank in endless pit of misery. Where is God when bad things happen to good people?
Gossip mill got frenzy in my small village. Rumour spread like harmattan fire that my aged father and I had donated my sisters for sacrifice in the witches’ coven. Tongues wagged, and heads turned against me in disgust. Public court, presided by idlers and detractors, pronounced the innocent guilty and sentenced us to derision and self immolation. Despite these trials, efforts to seek solutions in the hands of fetish doctors met my stiff resistance. I chose to die rather than make obeisance to the devil, and his cohorts.
What went wrong? I asked myself this question a thousand times. Why did God forsake his own, and let armies of foes triumph over me? I prayed till my tongue went dry. Where is God when darkness suddenly descends on a soul basking in the light of divine presence? Where is God when trouble comes upon us with an overwhelming force? Where is God when the tide turns against us, and we are pronounced guilty, even in our innocence? Where is God when poverty grips us in its wretched fist, and strangulates our yearnings for a better life? Where is God when barrenness creeps into our marriage and makes cries of babies faraway from our homes? Where is God when our health deteriorates rapidly, and the balm of Gilead no longer able to heal our afflictions? Where is God when our friends turn against us, and stab us furiously behind our backs? Where is God when our loved ones die and the memory of our irretrievable loss hover forever in our disconsolate hearts? Where is God when Lazarus died?
Too many questions. But faith gives an answer. In the seemingly absence of God, he is ever present. In fact the presence of God is ever more pronounced in his absence. God is never absent. He is forever present, and rightly deserves the title of omnipresence. Although Jesus was not in a hurry to get to Lazarus, he was with him in spirit. Nothing happens without God’s knowledge. He saw the death of Lazarus and announced it to his disciples saying, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going to wake him up” (John 11: 11).
From the narrative of John, Jesus deliberately delayed going to Lazarus till he died. “And for your sake, I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe” (John 11:15). To enable the disciples understand the teaching on resurrection, Christ used Lazarus as a case study. So, his death was for the overall good of others. Beyond the sorrows of Lazarus’s death lies the undimmed joy of immortal life.
Can God, the creator of time itself, be actually late? Did the scripture not say that a thousand years is like a day in the sight of God? If rightly so, what we consider as lateness as humans often falls short of divine definition. God holds time in his hands, and he alone knows the right time for his actions. There is always an appointed time for all his designs.
I urge you to always wait on God for the fulfillment of his promises. Hold unto the promises of Christ without faltering. Wait even though they tarry. Are your blessings late in arrival? Is your soulmate not coming? Maybe it is your financial harvest that is not yet ready. No matter what it is, keep waiting on God. All things work together for good for those that love God.
Even when the odds stack against you, trust God who writes straight on crooked lines. When you make no progress in your endeavours, believe that God will turn things around for your good. I am a witness that the promises of God never fail.
In the thick of crisis that befell my household, I saw the invisible hands writing testimonies about my family. Many are the afflictions of the righteous but God delivers from all of them. True to this promises, God miraculously delivered my family from the afflictions that befell us. To the glory of his holy name, one of my sisters that had the health challenge got complete healing and restoration, while her elder sister went to be with the Lord. As the scripture says, “precious in the eyes of God is the death of his saint” (Psalm 116:15). I do not mourn like those without hope. Rather, I look up to heaven with joy that one day, I, too, will join the cloud of witness.
Let me end this reflection by urging you, my dear reader, to renew your faith in God. When you experience the endless troubles of life, believe in your heart that it will surely turn out for your good. When you lose a loved one, be assured that God won’t let his loved one see decay. The souls of God’s people could be harvested to save them from worldly corruption.
What is it that troubles you? Is it sickness, failure, death, joblessness, barrenness, poverty, rejection, or false condemnation? Have the world cast you at the backstage, and left you struggling to find your feet? Has the world mocked you and denied you what your heart earnestly desire? Has they conspired against you and pulled you from grace to grass? Has the world robbed you of honour and clothed you in garbs of penury? For these and more, our hearts take a gradual descent to anxiety and depression.
God assures us that nothing can separate us from his love. When it appears that your dreams are not coming through, keep working. It might be the last key in the bunch that will open your door. When failure stares you in the face despite your best effort, don’t let your heart fail. Be of good cheers when the world troubles you. And when you have failed repeatedly in examination, God is laying for you a solid foundation for success.
Have you lost your job or means of livelihood? Think of the sparrows of the field and birds of the air that neither plough or toil, yet they eat to their fill. As long as your hands rest on the plough, heaven won’t let you go hungry. Have your friends abandoned you? Old friends have to go so that new ones will come. If an old tree does not shed its leaves, it won’t bear new fruits. In everything, always believe that God’s plan is the best for you. When the world pushes you down the cliff, walk your way up the valley. As the grave couldn’t hold Lazarus, you, too, shall arise!