“Bring it to God.”
Have you ever been vulnerable with someone about what you’re going through and gotten that response? Maybe not verbatim, but a variation of it. “Bring your problems, your mess, your situation, that, to God.”
In the summer going into my junior year of high school, I went on vacation with some friends to Orlando. A group of missionaries approached us and started asking us what we thought about God. Some of my friends got honest with them about what they were going through, and one of the missionaries gave them that response, “bring that to God.”
I was not pursuing Christ passionately at this stage of my life and felt exhausted by church culture. So I asked, “Man, I hear that a lot. But what does that even mean? How do you bring a mess to God? How do you bring problems to God?” Yes, Enneagram people, I am an 8.
As someone who struggles daily, and to you, my fellow strugglers, I say let’s talk about it. Let’s look at what it looks like to bring our mess, problems, and struggles to the Lord. There is a beautiful Biblical example of how to do this in John 11. Best known for the location of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, but for our purposes here today, the location of Martha’s example to us all. It’s easier than you think, as easy as ABC.
Approach God Honestly
Something unique to the miracle Jesus performs by raising Lazarus from the dead is that He is particularly close with Lazarus and his family. More often than not, Jesus doesn’t have the relationship with the recipients of His healings like He does here.
What I’m trying to say is that Jesus likes to kick it with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. When Jesus isn’t walking on water, feeding the 5,000, or making blind men see, He has a running group text with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, asking them if they want to have dinner that night. Low on wine? No problem. As long as Lazarus brings a jar of water, Jesus has the rest covered.
I tell you all of that to tell you this, Jesus knows them deeply, personally, and loves them profoundly. Would you believe it if I told you that Jesus knows you deeply, personally, and loves you profoundly? Because He does. And because of that, we can approach Him honestly.
John 11:20-21, “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went 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.’” When Martha hears that Jesus is on His way to them, the Bible tells us she went and met Him.
Sometimes when we have screwed up, fallen off the path, or feel frustrated we think we must wait on God to come to us and give us clear instructions on what to do next. We think and feel that we can’t stumble and then immediately go to God. There has to be a buffer period. We need a week of morality under or belt before we can come to God again.
What we see here from Martha should encourage us. She shows us that we can approach God, we can run to Him. God is already on His way to meet you in your mess, problems, and struggles, so you might as well go and meet Him. Approach Him honestly. How honest? I’m glad you asked.
The Bible says that when Martha runs into Jesus she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha is professing faith in Jesus and His power, but she is also expressing the feeling of being deeply disappointed in His delay. She is frustrated with Jesus. She sent messages to Him, telling Him that her brother was sick, and He showed up just a few days too late.
Have you ever been disappointed because you felt like God didn’t show up on time? You’ve sent a Him multiple messages expressing your desperation to see Him move in your life, and He didn’t come through. Have you ever been frustrated with God, and the only thing you’ve been able to ask Him in your mess is, “Jesus, where were you? What are you doing? I need you.”
Martha shows us that you can have faith in God and still be frustrated with God. She approaches Him honestly. So can we. “Where were you, Jesus? Why are you silent?” You can be honest with God, He already knows what’s happening in your heart.
Bank On God
Martha was disappointed and frustrated, but her faith was greater than her frustration. She knew she could bank on God to come through. She believed, even though she was beside herself with grief.
She says to Jesus in John 11:22-27, “I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you. I know my brother 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 die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She says, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Shortened).
Banking on God comes down to one thing and one thing only, do you believe that Jesus is who He says He is?
Martha says that even though her brother has died, she believes that Jesus is able to work in the messiest of moments. Jesus asks us the same question He asked Martha, “Whoever believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
If I have faith enough to know that I will never die as long as I believe in Christ, then there is nothing that can keep me from banking on God to come through. Could it be in a way that I didn’t expect and didn’t want? Of course. It may even be more accurate to say that is likely. But just because I don’t like the timing it doesn’t mean it’s bad timing. Just because I don’t like the outcome doesn’t mean it was the wrong outcome.
God is working for your good and His glory, even in the messiness of your life. Do you believe that? That even death is not can’t hold Him back? If you approach God honestly and believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then you can know this, that the messiness of life is miracle-making soil. You can bank on God.
Choose To See God’s Glory
When Jesus gets to the tomb where Lazarus is buried in John 11:39, He says, “Take away the stone.” Martha is not feeling that idea, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus responds in John 11:40, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
We can approach God honestly and truly believe that we can bank on Him to come through, even if it’s not in the way we had anticipated or hoped for, but will we let Him into every area of our life? So often we want God to come and work in our mess, but not that part or that way.
We want Him to bring us a new job but not that job. We want Him to bring us new friends but not those friends. We want Him to bring us a potential spouse but not that one, not that way.
Choosing to see God’s glory means choosing to follow His way. I can’t be who God has called me to be if I only surrender parts of me, and neither can you. We need to give Him everything.
As Jesus is about to perform the most dramatic miracle of His ministry, Martha says, “Wait! It will smell!” She wants her brother back, but can’t Jesus just call on Heaven to bring Lazarus out of the tomb minus the burial wrappings and smell? Sure, He could. But He doesn’t want to address half of the mess, He wants to address all of it. That’s where we choose to see His glory. We don’t hold back.
We think that part of our struggle is too severe. We want Him to work in our lives but not that part or in that way. We think the smell is too strong. Jesus reminds Martha, and He reminds us, that God’s glory has never met a mess with an odor that is stronger than the fragrance of Heaven.
You are not called to stay in that tomb of self-doubt, fear, shame, sorrow, insecurity, or whatever it is that you are facing. Jesus removes the stone, steps in, and calls you out of the tomb, into new life in Him.
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