What exactly is God’s glory? John Piper offers us a definition in this quote, “So God’s glory is the radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy and valuable perfections” (Piper, 2009). God’s glory is about His holiness, His perfection, and His infinite worth. No man could ever measure up to God’s holiness and perfection. Often, God allows circumstances to happen which cause us to look up and see His glory.
God’s glory is an amazing thing. We see it, we are awed by it, and sometimes we quickly forget it as life quickly distracts us. We hear stories of miraculous healing and we are quick to repeat those stories for a few days, then we forget. There are many stories of people saved miraculously from life-threatening events. There are even common day stories of doctors performing successful surgeries against all odds. All these events point to God’s glory.
One thing I noticed about these events is that they all involve pain. People who are directly involved in events that show us God’s glory often experience pain and hardship. When we look at the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, we can see that Lazarus and his sisters were not protected from pain and grief as God moved to show His glory.
Lazarus experienced the pain of being sick to the point of experiencing death. I don’t know about you, but the last time I had the flu, I felt pretty miserable. My body was aching, I had a fever that wouldn’t quit – I was miserable. I wasn’t remotely close to death even though I felt miserably. Death is not pretty, especially when it comes as a result of sickness. God did not spare Lazarus from suffering. Lazarus was so sick that he died.
Imagine the frustration that his sisters, Mary and Martha, felt as they did their best to care for Lazarus. Imagine all the things they tried to do in order to help their brother get better – soups, herbs, praying. Why didn’t prayer work? Why didn’t God answer their prayers? Why was their brother getting worse? Mary and Martha had enough faith to move a mountain, why wasn’t prayer working?
Many of us have experienced the same frustrations with prayer. Other well-meaning believers have told us that our faith wasn’t strong enough… or that our prayers were not specific enough… or – I’m sure you can fill in the blank. Sometimes our prayers aren’t answered in the way we want them to be answered. Sometimes prayers are not answered in the time frame we have predetermined. Sometimes – all we seem to experience is silence from God as we suffer.
Jesus was not surprised at the news of Lazarus’ sickness. Jesus knew what the outcome of the story would be – Lazarus would be raised from the dead. He knew that when people witnessed Lazarus’ dead rotting body being raised from the dead, people would believe that He was God’s son. If He knew this, why didn’t He send a message back to the sisters telling them so? Why did he let them suffer through the loss of their brother and the intense grief that followed? Why did he let them experience the frustrations of making burial arrangements and notifying people to come and help them mourn Lazarus’ death?
I believe that there are lessons to be learned through the pain of suffering. We can suffer with frustration and doubt and concede to depression – or we can choose to open our eyes so that we can see what God is teaching us and accept His intense love for us. We have the choice to cling to the “poor me” mentality, or we can choose to look beyond ourselves and cling to the truths that God is revealing to us. Lazarus experienced death so that God’s glory could be revealed. Why was God’s glory revealed? So that many others would believe that God sent Jesus to us (John 11: 42). Did you understand what you just read? Lazarus died so that you and me could see God’s glory – God’s infinite holiness and His infinite value and worth. Lazarus’ death caught the attention of many of people and pointed them towards God. Lazarus’ death and life was recorded so that millions would see God’s infinite strength and love for us.
My friend, know that your suffering may not be all about you. Maybe, just maybe, your suffering might be about God’s glory. I encourage you to look beyond your pain to the One who is with you in your pain. We don’t know why, just as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus didn’t know why, but we can be confident in trusting that God has a plan to reveal His glory through our lives.