The past week has been a difficult one. A precious friend, who was out running a benefit run to raise money for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, dropped on the course and has been in ICU for over a week. I begin by asking for prayers for him, his wife, and his mom and dad. Literally thousands of people are calling out for a miracle for this young man.
During all of this, as I see his family wait for news, I have often thought back to over 25 years ago when I went through the first real tragedy of my life, the loss of our son.
I won't go into the battle we went through during that time, but will focus, instead, on the aftermath...when life made no sense and I tried to go on without that precious child in our lives...and I died inside.
I went through all the stages of grief with a vengeance! Bargaining with God, arguing with God, threatening with God, reasoning with God...and the heavens were as brass. Finally, on the night before my 28th birthday, I shook my fist at God and said, "If this is who You are, I choose not to serve You," and I decided to die. Now, I wasn't going to take my life. I didn't want to do that to those around me. I just made up my mind that I would function, but I wouldn't ever allow myself to "feel" again. No love, no hate, no nothing. I guess you could say, I became a zombie. Walking around, but really not alive.
I think back now and I am in awe of the mercy and love of my Jesus. As I stood in my bedroom and shook my fist, He was there. He never turned away. I think He probably wept...not because of what I was saying, but because He saw the pain and He loves me. You know, in the Bible it says that when Jesus came to where Mary and Martha were and they said that Lazarus was dead, He wept. The shortest verse in the Bible..."Jesus wept." I believe He wept because of the love He had for those in pain. It wasn't for Lazarus or because of his own loss; I believe it was simply that the heart of Jesus felt the pain of those around him. One version said that He was angry...perhaps at unbelief or the tricks of the enemy, but it always resounds in me that "Jesus wept."
Then, just as all hope was lost, Jesus spoke and said, "Lazarus, come out." Now in the eyes of all those around, this was craziness! Lazarus had been dead for four days! But at His word, everything changed. Lazarus walked out of that tomb.
I have, in a very real way, experienced this same experience. All those years ago, as I decided to die and turn my back on God, there was someone praying. Lots of someones in fact. The next day was awful. I broke down and in my own eyes saw nothing but darkness and hopelessness all around me. What a way to celebrate your birthday. One dear friend came to me and told me she was taking me out for ice cream for my birthday...not something I wanted at all. But as she obeyed God and reached out to the wretch (only way to describe me at that time) like me, God was working. She helped me by being there and showing me how to move from grief and anger into trust. That day, I was raised from the dead and realized like never before that I had no clue who God was or how much He loved me. Mind you, I had been a Christian for years, but that day I moved from zombie state to being fully alive.
That was in 1987...a long time ago.
Today, can I say I am a great woman of faith? Not even close. Do I always walk in the fruit of the spirit? Bhahaha - ask my family, they'll tell you no way! Have I been tempted to slip back into my grave-clothes and take a nap in the tomb? More times than I'd like to admit. Life has given me lots of opportunities to move back into zombie status, but I just can't do it. I've tasted life, real life, from Christ. I had someone ask a friend recently "what is she on and how can I get some?" I guess that's what happens when you are raised from the dead...you stand out!
God raised Lazarus from the dead. He raised ME from the dead - maybe not physical death, but death all the same. God doesn't deal in zombies...when He raises someone or something from the dead, it is fully alive! He tells us to take off our grave clothes and be set free. We are to let go of the chains that try to hold us back. We are to shake off the things that try to attach to us like toilet paper on our shoe and we are to be set free.
He promises to give us life more abundantly....and God never breaks His promise. No zombies allowed.
New International Version (NIV)
The Death of Lazarus
11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany,the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friendLazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah,the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead
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 believe, you will 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.”