When Christ wasn’t there.
There was a time in California when I thought the Lord had left me. I remember weeping under blankets in the dark, huddled on the floor and feeling my prayers echo into nowhere, landing nowhere. The days were long and painful and I could hardly manage to function. I felt cold, alone, abandoned, deserted.
Until I cried out a question that I will never throw out at God again.
It had been days since I’d felt the peace or presence of God, despite my constant prayers and seeking him out. My spirit was weak, my eyes exhausted from crying and in the darkness of my room I cried out,
What have I ever done to you?
The response was swift, immediate even.
Do you really want me to answer that?
And then He was gone like a quick breeze.
Two days later, I turned around and there he was. That is literally what happened. In The Salvation Army thrift store in Pasadena, California I turned around and ran straight into God. My heart grew wings and took flight, my spirit sighed in relief and I was free from the terror of being abandoned by the only One who could uphold a promise like “I will never leave you.”
It’s been two years since then, and I can remember the pain I felt when my prayers echoed in the silence.
“Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Martha and Mary had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. Jesus knew he was going to die. But Jesus chose to stay away. He kept away from Martha and Mary in their desperation – he received their message but let it fall on deaf ears… until Lazarus had died.
It reminds me a little of the time Jesus took a nap in the boat. The wind was tossing the boat, the waves were crashing all around them… and Jesus slept on.
How easy it is to relate to the disciples.. I’m going to die, and Jesus sleeps on.
How easy it is to relate to the women.. He didn’t show up, and the worst happened.
But Jesus wasn’t being careless in either situation. He wasn’t being apathetic or unsympathetic. Four days after Lazarus was buried, Jesus finally arrives in Bethany. Martha hears he is coming and waits outside to meet him. Jesus talks to her, and then Mary comes to him, falls at his feet and tells him “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She weeps at his feet, and Jesus is deeply moved and troubled. She takes him to the resting place of Lazarus.. and “Jesus wept.”
Jesus wept over the death of his friend he was about to bring back to life. I wonder how many of his tears were for the people who were upset at the result of him not being there.. even though he knew he was about to blow. their. minds.
There are times in life when God remains silent, when he lets our prayers echo around in the darkness, when he watches us hurt and suffer – he let Jesus die on a cross – because he knows that he is about to show up, cry with us, and bring us back to life.
Sometimes the silence and emptiness is what allows Christ to come closest to us, because that’s when he can arrive to a grieving household and weep with us. He doesn’t want to be a power source who shows up and fixes situations. He came to be with us, to make his dwelling among us, and sometimes he has to let us hurt so that we stop approaching him as a Mr. Fix It. We just stand at the end of the road and wait for him to show up, because we know that once he gets there… things will be better somehow. But by then the expectations are gone.
It might seem like he’s sleeping through the storms in your life or that he’s ignored your requests for him to show up and bring his power.. but he hasn’t abandoned you. When he comes, he won’t bring his little scrolls of band-aid Scriptures. He will calm your seas and he will weep with you and he will hold you.
And by all of that, I mean… when you turn around and run face first into him.
Because he might be quiet, but he will never leave you.