“When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”
I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith, and love, and every grace,
Might more of His salvation know, and seek more earnestly His face.
’Twas He who taught me thus to pray, and He, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way; as almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour at once He’d answer my request;
And, by His love’s constraining power, subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel the hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part…
“Lord, why is this?” I trembling cried, “Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“Tis in this way,” the Lord replied, “I answer prayer for grace and faith.”
John Newton certainly captured in his verse the frustration we all feel when we pray and God answers in ways we never imagined—or wanted. Mary and Martha must have felt that way when Christ deliberately delayed coming to Bethany after he received news of Lazarus’s illness: Why is the Master ignoring our request? Doesn’t he care about our brother? Surely he’s forgotten us! Jesus chose to make life hard for Mary and Martha. Yet it is usually strange answers to prayer that hide the deepest, best, and most beautiful purpose.
Mary and Martha did not receive a brother healed back from the infirmary; they received their brother raised back from the cemetery. More than that, they received the gift of greater, sturdier, more robust faith. God is interested in the same for you.
God, help me to remember that while you haven’t promised me happy endings, you have assured me of greater faith. For me, that’s the best ending.