Last week we visited the story of the lost son who eventually returned home to the welcoming arms of his father. The son’s heart had traveled far off to pursue selfish pleasures long before his feet ever took the first steps. Because of the son’s unwillingness to show honor and respect, his father did not chase him. However, once he returned and sin was confessed, grace opened the floodgates of mercy and great blessings. True Love doesn’t chase the sinful; it beckons them home.
Today, I’d like you to step with me into another story. One that I have wrestled with for months in hopes of shedding some light on the motives of those who, either knowingly or unknowingly, isolate themselves from Love. It’s also my hope to inspire those of you who keep the doors of your hearts bolted and locked to courageously fling them open so Love can come in to soothe your hurt.
John 11 stands tall in proclaiming the resurrection power of Jesus through the body of His friend Lazarus. We first meet Lazarus’ two sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10. There, Martha represents the mindset of those following the Law and its compulsion for good works. Mary, on the other hand, represents the importance of a spiritual relationship with Jesus. In no uncertain terms, Jesus declares which of these is most important. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
After reading John 11 in at least 20 different versions and praying for the Holy Spirit to show me why He kept sending me back to this chapter, I finally saw it. It may merely be a woman thing. I don’t know. But, I’d like you to hear me out.
Of the three siblings in this story, Lazarus always holds the top billing in the storyline. After all, a man raised from the dead continues to raise the eyebrows of even the harshest critic. But I’d like to contend that Lazarus’ sister Mary should linger in the spotlight for a moment or two longer.
In Luke 10, Mary sat in the glowing presence of the Light of the World, hanging on every word. John makes it a point to tell us that Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary and considered them friends. But then, after Mary and Martha sent word to this dear friend saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick,” Jesus didn’t come right away. He stayed put until Lazarus had been dead four days so that the glory of God would be displayed in an undeniable way. Mary and Martha, however, were not privy to this important tidbit of explanation, and Mary soon found herself in a dark place.
The friendship between Mary and Jesus had no doubt formed through deep conversation, shared meals, and many words of affirmation for one another. Mary trusted Jesus with her heart. But there in the darkness of overwhelming grief, her trust was tested. We get a glimpse of Mary’s hurt heart when the sisters finally received word that Jesus had indeed come. Martha went out to meet Him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Hurt hearts sit.
Perhaps, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to believe that Mary might have begun to doubt the love of Jesus. Just maybe, she allowed these kinds of negative thoughts to creep into her thinking: “If He really loved me He would have come right away. Doesn’t He care?” or “After all the love I’ve shown Him, you’d think He could at least show up”, or “Why did He say He loved me if He didn’t mean it?” or just maybe Mary climbed up on her high horse and thought, “If He had been the one hurting, I would have shown up!” Hurt hearts criticize.
Oh, how these have been my thoughts at least a thousand times toward almost as many people. I really hate admitting that, but I want those of you going through a tough time to rise above the negative thoughts. You are worth the time! People really do love you, but sometimes they just don’t realize how important they are! Tell them. Ask for their help. Yes, there may be those who disappoint you, but look around your life at all the ones who show up for you. Thank them, and love them incredibly well. Above all, please know that God loves you no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done!
If you know someone going through a rough time, go to them! Help them experience the love of Jesus by telling them what they mean to Him and to you. Look into their hurt. Spend time with them. Listen. Hold them when they cry. Laugh with them when they can laugh. Just be there! By doing this, you represent the love of Jesus very well. True Love doesn’t ignore the hurting; it heals them.
As for Mary, the sweet results of her mended heart soon filled the air at Lazarus’ resurrection party. In the presence of Jesus she not only found her worth, but also a joy that was gloriously inexpressible, and gratitude that was completely uncontainable.
And so did I!