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Keeping Faith in Times of Pain (John 11:1–44)

John 11 is one of the most memorable stories in the whole Bible. In it, Jesus finds out that one of his dear friends (Lazarus) is sick and on the brink of death, but John tells us: “when [Jesus] heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:6 ESV).

Jesus finds out that his dear friend is about to die, and he hangs out for a few days before going to see him!

Jesus’s delay has tragic consequences: his friend dies from the illness. When Jesus meets Lazarus’s sisters, they both say the same thing to him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

We sense two sentiments in this statement. First, faith. Lazarus’s sisters believed that Jesus had power over illness and could have saved Lazarus. But also, there is a tinge of questioning: “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Where were you?”

I can relate to Mary and Martha’s experience. When I go through hard times, deep down I believe that Jesus can deliver me. But sometimes, I question: “Where are you, God?” “Why me?” “Don’t you care?”

Theologians debate the problem of pain. How can we believe in an all-loving and all-powerful God when there is so much pain in the world? While it can be helpful to reason through this problem, I take more comfort in the portrayal of Jesus in John 11. In John 11, Jesus sits with his grieving friends. He weeps with them. He reminds them of the goodness of God and the hope we share. That’s what I want to know most when I suffer—that God cares.

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