Where is God when...? Why does God allow...?
The hard questions. Stumbling blocks for many to believe in a benevolent creator, awkward for believers whose faith intentionally ignore the question. The easy answer is to simply say, I don't know. Truth is, only God knows what and why. But it is foolishness to think we are the first to ask these questions.
Jesus was confronted with these questions while he was still walking the earth. In John 11, we read of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Most of us easily remember how the story ends, but we forget the suffering that came before. When Jesus was told Lazarus was sick, he waited two days to do anything about it. Ever have a prayer go unanswered? Mary and Martha, friends of Jesus, must have felt like many of us do: maybe Jesus didn't get the message; maybe Jesus doesn't care as much as we thought; maybe Jesus is just too busy.
So when Jesus finally does arrive, Lazarus had been dead for four days. How do you think Mary and Martha felt? I can imagine them approaching Jesus and through their exhaustion and tears lashing out at him in despair. The Bible sensitizes the scene with both women stating, at different times, "if only you were here..." as a passive-aggressive rejection of the Lord's timing.
When we ask the hard questions, we often think God doesn't understand. But he does, because he went through it himself. While standing before friends and onlookers, hearing the weeping and wailing, Jesus was overcome with emotion. Most Bible translations say Jesus was "moved" but the word in verse 33 describes anger or the snorting of a horse. Jesus was more than moved. As Shelia Walsh puts it in God Loves Broken People, "This was the Son of God raging at the pain that Mary and Martha, that [friends and family], that you and I have faced or are facing right now."
So how did Jesus respond? With the shortest verse in the Bible. He wept.
Yes, this was a lesson about the resurrection of the dead. Yes, it affirmed Jesus' authority even over death. But it is something more as well. Jesus is showing us that on the other side of all the suffering, after all the questions, there is life.