Sunday, February 28, 2010

Invisible Handprints

We got the call at the end of church this morning. My uncle had suffered a heart attack and was in surgery at the hospital.

As a rule, we rationally accept that every person is at risk to die the next second, but we ignore the highly unlikelies, the potentials, and sometimes even the probables because to live a life in constant fear of the "what ifs" isn't really living. And besides, no one can truly plan for the what if they don't know the when.

But as the minutes of the day ticked by, my family was able to see the hand of someone who did know the what and the when...and who had planned accordingly.

First, a nurse in my uncle's congregation was able to diagnose his symptoms quickly and drive him directly to the hospital. Then, unlike most weekends, there weren't a lot of people waiting in the ER so my uncle could be attended to immediately. And what's more, a cardiologist "just so happened" to be in the hospital, meaning the surgery to remove the heart blockage wasn't delayed by waiting for a doctor to arrive.

Three "coincidences"? No. Three hand prints of God.

God knew my uncle would suffer a heart attack this morning. And He prepared the way so that my uncle's heart suffered possibly little to no damage.

This is what author and Bible study leader Kay Arthur calls the "previousness of God."

In essence, our God knows the past, the present, and the future. And because He knows all, He previously plans for these moments that will come in a fallen world. He previously spins every piece of creation in perfectly-timed motion so that it works with His overall kingdom plan.

Consider the story of Lazarus.

John tells us that Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus, became very sick, so sick that "the sisters sent word to Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick'" (John 11:3).

Lazarus was more than a little sick. He was dying. And he apparently died not long after the message was sent because when Jesus came back in town, Lazarus had already lay in the tomb "four days" (v. 38).

So why wait until Lazarus was on death's door to ask for help?

Perhaps it was because the sisters understood theimportance of Christ's ministry. Perhaps they understood the danger in Jesus returning to Jerusalem where the Jews sought to destroy Him. Or perhaps they simply didn't want to bother Him with an illness that might heal itself.

Whatever the case, Mary and Martha did finally send word. Whether they expected Jesus to hurry back and heal Lazarus in person or whether they thought Jesus would do some long-distance healing, surely they expected Jesus to do something!

But Jesus did nothing!!

Instead, Scripture says, "when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days" (v. 6). And what's more, He told His disciples Lazarus' sickness was "for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it" and "so that you may believe" (v. 4, 14).

Jesus deliberately waited so that others would believe Him to be Lord of both the living and of the dead. The Jews believed after death, a soul hovered near the body for three days and then departed the body on the fourth day with no possibility for return. By waiting until the fourth day, Jesus was demonstrating His power over death.

Mary and Martha, though, greeted Jesus like most of us would: "'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died'" (v. 21, 32). These words speak to the sisters' faith in Jesus' power to heal. But Mary's accompanying weeping also makes these words ring of criticism and grief.

Scripture then describes "the people" God had lined up for this private miracle viewing included "many Jews [who] had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother" (v. 19).

Then, when everything was perfectly aligned to accomplish God's chief objective, Jesus called, "'Lazarus, come out!'" (v. 44). And he did.

Could Jesus have just healed Lazarus in the first place? Yes. Could God have stopped my uncle from having a heart attack? Definitely.

But as hard as it is for us to conceive in our flesh that hurts and weeps hot tears of sorrow and shivers with cold fear--it's not just about us. And it's never just a "single" event.

Lazarus' sickness, death, the subsequent waiting, and the audience--all of it was carefully orchestrated by God for His glory so that others would come to believe in Jesus, the Son.

That's what it's really about. God being glorified.

God knows what will happen in your life and in my life. Bad days will come. Sorrow will overwhelm us at times. And yet in everything, God is there, working all things together for our eternal good.

God's invisible hand prints abound in all things.

Sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to see them.

1 comment:

  1. Please know that my family is praying for all of y'all. Love each of you! ~Allison