"You are where you wait."
Since it takes a while for new sayings to catch on, I will provide a few illustrations.
- Everyone waiting for the first pitch since the last pitch was thrown in October, are baseball fans. If they are smart, they are Rangers fans, but that is a different post.
- From the moment two lines show up on the little stick as she waits for ten months to hear the first cry of her new baby, a woman is pregnant.
- Those long stressful months while they wait from the moment the question is popped until they say "I do," that man and woman are defined by being engaged.
- All of you who spent the last two years waiting to see what District 12 looked like on the big screen are Hunger Games fanatics.
I, myself, spend a tremendous amount of time waiting in actual waiting rooms. Doctor's offices mostly, but sometimes I throw in an occasional ER or hospital stay for good measure. I've often joked that if I could log the hours I spend in doctor's offices, I would be halfway to a medical degree. When I'm not in a waiting room, I find myself waiting for doctors or nurses to call with test results, waiting on the pharmacy to fill a prescription, or waiting on Web MD to self diagnose what all those doctors missed.
And that is how I feel. Even on days where I am not in physical pain, I still feel sick. Mostly because I know that tomorrow there is a good chance I won't be able to get out of bed, will discover the exciting side effects of some new medication, or will be in yet another waiting room. As much as I try to enjoy the good days, I find myself waiting for the return of the bad days.
On Easter Sunday, our pastor preached the story of Lazarus. I've heard the story dozens of times and probably read it a dozen more, but I hadn't thought about it in the context of this particular sermon. Our pastor asserted that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. Biblical precedents tell us he could have healed him long distance or he could have made the journey to his friend immediately instead of choosing to wait two days, in which time Lazarus died. If we are throwing out options, he could have chosen not to let Lazarus get sick in the first place. The scripture is clear that Jesus loved Lazarus. But Jesus chose to let Lazarus die so that God could be glorified. In this case He was glorified as a group of people watched a man who had been dead for four days walk out of the grave.
He could have healed Lazarus, but God, our pastor asserted, had a better plan.
Our pastor went on to say that if he were Lazarus, he would have chosen God's plan over immediate healing. People get better all the time. What they don't do, is walk out of the grave. The impact of raising a man from the dead, especially in front of the very people who were persecuting him, proved again that Jesus was the son of God, and indeed God himself.
I've been thinking a lot about that sermon this week. When you have a chronic illness, or lose a job, or lose a loved one people often tell you "God has a better plan." But in the moment when you are in the midst of crippling pain, the dept collector is at the door, or so grief stricken you can't get out of bed, those words often ring hollow.
I don't think it is coincidental that when Jesus told them to move the stone from Lazarus' grave, his sister Martha said, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”*
I don't know about you, but I think waiting to see God's plan is a lot like those four days Lazarus spent in the grave; it stinks. It isn't that I don't believe God is big enough, powerful enough, or that he doesn't love me enough. He has proved time and time again that He is and He does.
It still stinks.
When we are waiting for the doctors to diagnose or treat us. When they tell us there is nothing they can do.
When we are living paycheck to paycheck. When the paychecks stop.
When our marriage hits rock bottom. When it falls apart completely.
And in the middle of the stink, while we are waiting, it is hard to comprehend that our pain and suffering is part of God's plan. I am guessing that while he was sick Lazarus wasn't counting on Jesus raising him from the dead. He knew Jesus could heal him, and if I were a betting man, I'd bet that is what he was hoping for. What he was praying for. The grief of his sisters is apparent in scripture, with both of them blaming Jesus for their brother's death. Knowing that he could have healed Lazarus, that he loved Lazarus, but still, he chose to let him die.
It's hard for us not to feel the same way as we wait. Wondering if God is there. If He understands the depth of our pain. If He even cares. Wondering why, if He is all powerful and all good, why, if he loves us that we are still sick, why our bank accounts are empty, why our husband walked out.
The truth is, I don't know. I've spent a lot of time waiting and God has yet to let me in on His exact plan for my life.
But I am trusting that there is one. And I am trusting that His plan is better than the plan I had for myself.
Because if I don't believe He has a better plan, then I'm just a girl stuck in a grave with no hope of walking out.
*John 11:38 - NIV version