Below features my writings as well as my dear friend Hanna’s. Please read through to see her thoughts on the same subject. *
“Lord, help me to still look to you even when I cannot see you.”
That has been my prayer lately. I’m having a difficult time seeing God working in my life. I’ve been running on a lot of truth that was revealed to me over a year ago…but nothing new has been shown to me since then. A lot of Scripture is engrained in my head, and it helps me to continue pushing through each tough situation. But relying on the past to get me through the present is starting to run me down a little bit.
I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed, and so drained. It appears I keep coming back to the same pattern of emotions. I’ve felt unappreciated and overlooked. I have been trying to give and pour out that which I do not have.
And I go to God. I always start by reciting what I know of Him. I say that I know He loves me, I know He is good, I know He is faithful, I know He is forgiving, etc.… I then dive into pages worth of prayers for all my friends and family (cause, boy do they need a lot of prayer). And finally, if my hand is not too cramped by the end, I shoot out a little prayer asking God to reveal more of himself to me, or to give me His eyes and His heart for His people, or to show me more of His character that I have not seen yet.
But today I paused. I started with myself today (maybe that’s selfish but who knows) and rambled on for a while. With the people in my life, I do feel as though I initiate more often than not. I do a lot that goes unnoticed, and very often try to put others before myself. So today I said, “God, why do I always come to you but feel as though you don’t come to me?” In this season, I pray, and I pray and I pray and I read and I read and I read, and I don’t feel loving, comforting arms wrapping around me. I don’t see a gracious Father affirming His daughter. I feel a lot of silence, waiting, and confusion. But nonetheless, I continue to go back to God, recounting all the ways He has blessed me and all the aspects of His character that I know to be true. I pray for others, and then send out a prayer on my behalf. And I wait. And I hope.
My friend, Hanna, just started working for the same company I do, and we have some weekend shifts together. Last weekend, she brought up an interesting perspective on a scripture I’ve read, and heard, thousands of times. It’s the story of Mary and Martha from John 11.
“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So, when Martha heard Jesus coming, she went out and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’” (v. 17-27)
I relate much to Martha in this excerpt, as did my Hanna. I feel as though I am constantly going out to meet Jesus, and then when I get there, I acknowledge Him as God and Lord of my life. But, Martha’s brother just died. That is a lot of pain in her heart, and she still went out to meet Jesus, she still acknowledged Him as Lord and still acknowledged what she knew about scripture, even when her heart was breaking. If I were Martha, I would want Jesus to hug me or comfort me or anything besides question my faith. And then, as you read on:
“When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, ‘the Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now, when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled…. Jesus wept.” (v. 28-35)
Mary didn’t even go out to meet Jesus, she didn’t even acknowledge him as God, and she just complained that he didn’t do enough. Why was Jesus deeply moved by this and not by the strength that Martha had shown?
Maybe it’s because Mary let Jesus call her, instead of her calling Jesus.
Maybe it’s because Mary let Jesus show her who He was, instead of telling him who he was.
Maybe it’s because Mary let Jesus be strong for her, and did not try to do it herself.
Now, I don’t have any fancy degrees in theology, and I’ve never been to seminary. But I found something that struck a chord in my spirit and made me realize that I am very much Martha. I go to God and I say, “Man, this hurts but I know you are good, and you are God, and you are amazing.” And then I cut God off with my “knowledge” of what His word says. “Martha said to him, ‘I know…’” (v.24). I complain that God doesn’t reveal himself to me or show me what He is doing in my life but yet I don’t even give him the chance to! Whenever someone tries to talk to me about spiritual concepts, “I KNOW”, whenever someone gives me words of counsel or advice, “I KNOW”, whenever someone gives me a solution to a problem, “I KNOW.”
I need to stop TELLING God who He is and let God SHOW me who He is.
“…knowing God is a matter of personal dealing, as is all direct acquaintance with personal beings, Knowing God is more than knowing about him; it is a matter of dealing with him as he opens up to you, and being dealt with him as he takes knowledge of you” (Packer, Knowing God, 39).
Even here, knowledge of God is God opening to me, and I, doing what I can with the revelation. So really, if I am sitting here not letting God open up to me, because I am telling him I know him already…then really, I do not know him at all. Did that make sense?
Either way, my new “plan” if you will, is to mimic Mary a little more. I am going to move aside to let God show me who He is, and what He is doing. I am going to try to stop using “I know” as an automated response to anything, and I am going to allow God to move in my life, unhindered.
Very genuinely, God bless you all who are reading this.
*Written by Hanna (separately from mine but one wouldn’t know that reading through):
I am not Mary. Rarely, if ever, do I find myself abandoning all responsibility to sit wide-eyed at the feet of Jesus, mystified by His wonder and in awe of His greatness. Deaf to the screaming criticism of the outside, overwhelmed by the gentle whisper from within. No, I am not Mary.
I am Martha. Performance and expectation driven, I know there are things to get done. It is not my place to sit, for the work requires me to stand. Rest comes after the toil, that’s the simple order of operations. I know what I need to do. I know what my job is. I know where I belong. I know. I know. I know.
It has always seemed unfair to me, that Jesus would be stern with Martha. Stern with me. If anyone needed to understand the sweetness of a Savior, is it not the one who is overcome with the bitterness of busyness?
“Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But, even still I know You are God.”
A frustration followed by a statement of faith. Should that not be rewarded? Why does the Christ not weep with her?
“Lord if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
A simple frustration. An honest and raw lament. And so, the Christ weeps.
As I ponder why the Lord meets Mary with the emotional compassion that I, as Martha, long to experience, I cannot help but notice the only difference is the presence of knowledge in Martha’s comment.
You see, Martha corrects herself before allowing Jesus to explain His heart. Mary leaves Him the room to respond. Sometimes, it isn’t about what we know and are able to present on our own.. It’s about allowing God the space and the time to show us pieces of Himself in the midst of our honesty.