Stepping back to see the forest...

Please begin with prayer for an open heart, before you read the passage below. John 11:25-27 & John 11:38-44 - 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ,[a] the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “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.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 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.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.”

(For extra credit, read all of John 11---the context is huge here and 11:45-57 reveals a tremendous amount about why Jesus was put to death.)

There is a saying that goes something like, ‘you can’t see the forest through the trees.’  This came to mind in reflecting on the message Sunday as well as the texts in John 11.  It basically means that someone gets consumed with the details of something or what’s immediately in front of them that they lose perspective on the bigger issue and what’s really important. 

We see Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha distraught and frustrated with Jesus that He was not there, because He could have saved their brother.  If you read John 11:5-6, we see Jesus’ loved them (they were probably some of His closest friends, outside the disciples), learns of the sickness, and then stays a couple more days where He is.  Jesus, don’t you care about this man?  If you really cared, you would drop everything and rush to our side and fix the situation!  We quickly become gods…

Maybe Jesus had a deeper agenda with the girls in this situation and the people surrounding the situation.  If Jesus would have come running when he saw on Facebook that Lazarus was sick, who knows how the trajectory of Mary and Martha’s lives would have gone.  I believe that Jesus was trying to teach them and us something through this---Jesus is Lord through life and death---pain and joy---wealth and poverty.  We so often become consumed with the struggle or pain that is right before our eyes, we lose sight of God’s larger desire. 

I believe that we can simultaneously want healing for our self or someone close to us and also humbly trust that God is bigger than that moment.  We see Jesus demonstrate this praying in the garden the night before His crucifixion (Take this cup…but Your will be done) and we see Paul demonstrate it with the thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 11-12 and then ultimately displays incredible wisdom and perspective in Philippians 4.  God wants us to ask, but He also wants us to surrender and trust in Him.  In reflecting on Jesus many miracles, people came with infirmities of all kinds and many of them He healed---His deeper agenda was to heal their soul though and this is the ground we must stand on as well! 

At POG, we have the Love Fund that a few of us administer and are stewards over.  It is a challenge to know when is appropriate to give a family or individual money.  When you hear someone losing a house or having utilities cut off, the natural inclination is to throw money at the problem, if it’s available.  I feel that I/we have learned that we can actually inhibit God from the deeper healing and transformation that He desires by intervening some times.  It’s challenging, but actually withholding money can be better for the individual and families than giving money.

This is analogous to our prayer life---if God gave us everything that we asked for it would not be good for us or those around us.  My 4-year old has been asking for lots of things lately (a 2 story house with a balcony, every toy he sees, candy at odd hours, movies around the clock, etc.) and if we answered yes to everything we asked we would have a very spoiled, unhealthy kid with parents that could not pay their mortgage.  In attempting to be good parents, we tell our kids no frequently, because we sort of grasp the bigger life picture or at least much more than a 4 year-old.  Now, magnify that on God, in terms of our asking for things.  We don’t always know why healings don’t happen or God doesn’t answer a certain way, but we move forward in faith, trusting that God is very good, very gracious, and works for the good (His definition, not ours!!) of those who love Him!  Lazarus coming back to life was much more than Mary or Martha could have imagined and that journey of trusting Jesus transformed them.

Does the trees/forest quote resonate with you and your life?  Have you been so consumed by something that you missed the bigger picture and didn’t allow God to work outside the specifics of your request?  Have you later gained perspective and had a more accurate understanding of God’s desire and bigger purpose in your life?  I would love to hear your stories and how this text spoke to your heart!