Today let’s have a look at Mary and Martha. Two beautiful ladies, very different to each other, but both very much loved by the Lord. Mary is renowned for anointing the Lord’s feet with her perfume and then wiping them with her hair, and she was also the sister who was captivated by Jesus teaching, Luke 11: 2, and Luke 10:39. Martha was the sister who first ‘opened her home’ to Jesus, and she is also known for her serving heart, (even if it did leave her a little distracted). Jesus clearly loved being in their home, Luke 11:38-41, and loved the two of them, and their brother, very much. John 11:5.
In the light of their devotion to Jesus, and His enjoyment of their hospitality, it is interesting to observe how they dealt with their disappointment with Him, when He apparently ‘let’ their brother Lazarus die. The sisters had specifically sent word to Jesus when Lazarus was sick. They had seen Him heal so many others, but Jesus delays His visit for two days, and when He eventually arrived at their home, Lazarus had been dead for long enough for many of their friends to have arrived to mourn with them. Not only had Jesus let Lazarus die, but He wasn’t even there among the first of the visitors to comfort them. So how did the two sisters cope with that? John 11:1-43.
The first thing we observe is that Martha went out to meet Him, Mary stayed at home. I think I can identify with Mary here. Sometimes when there has been disappointment, when the Lord seems to have ignored a prayer or even a plea, we can withdraw ourselves from Him, not sure how to connect with Him when He has appeared not to care as much as we thought He did. When Jesus does ask for to her to come out to meet Him, Mary manages to articulate her pain to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Now because we know the end of the story we can often miss just how painful this all was. To lose a beloved brother, (probably the family breadwinner and covering), was terrible enough, but to be let down by the one friend, who you thought really cared, and who could have prevented the death, must have intensified that grief immensely. I know from my counselling days, how hard it is for people to handle a bereavement when they believe there has been a failure of lack of care. Her pain was enough to move Jesus to weep Himself, even though He knew what He was going to do.
Martha is bolder, she goes out to Jesus and greets Him with what seems like a similar rebuke, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” but she follows it quickly with a bold statement of faith, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask”. Well done Martha! She might have been distracted when He was teaching and she was cooking, but she clearly had observed over time, and clocked it, that whatever Jesus asked of the Father it was done. They then have a very tender interaction about resurrection and Martha confesses, as Peter did later, her belief that Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world’.
So what about us when we feel that maybe the Lord has let us down. It could be a prayer not answered, or a promise not fulfilled – in our way, to our timing and expectation. We can be like Mary and withdraw, nursing our hurt and grievance, or we could be like Martha, boldly sharing our pain with the Lord but then, confessing our bottom line to the Lord like this. “This may have not happened (or may have happened) and I don’t understand you Lord, but what I do know is………..”
David knew this. In Psalm 56: he is calling on God for mercy. It’s another one of those times when his enemies seem to be winning. He is lamenting his fate with lots of tears (which He would like God to note!!). Then He makes a great and bold declaration, ‘Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; “This I know, that God is for me.” In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What man can do to me? Your vows are binding to me, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death, and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.’ Psalm 56:8-13.
When I am perplexed with God, if I can find a truth to thank Him for, or if I can remember with thanksgiving something that He has done for me; if I can remember and thank Him for all He has been for me in the past, it is like finding a rock of faith, on which I can stand, and it will stop me from slipping further down that slope of doubt, unbelief and even self pity. It’s about finding my own ‘bottom line’ and, with thanksgiving, making my own declaration of faith. “God this hasn’t happened as I wanted/thought/expected, but this I know ….and I thank you for…..” I think you will find at that point, (and it may need some persistence) that your enemies (those negative and unbelieving thoughts in your mind that pull you down) will turn back and, like David, you will be able to ‘walk again before God in the light of life’.