Sometimes Jesus Allows Pain

If you had been here, my brother would not have died!

Mary and Martha knew of Jesus’ power. They had heard what He did to feed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves. They were probably were aware of His healing a man who was born blind. That’s why they said what they did when Lazarus died after Jesus intentionally delayed coming to see Lazarus when he was ill.

Intentionally delayed? Yes, that’s right, and that’s key. When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed away from him for two days longer (see John 11:1-6). Jesus intentionally allowed His friend Lazarus to die.

Why?

Did Jesus do it because He didn’t care about Lazarus or his sisters? No, for when Jesus saw Lazarus’ tomb, He wept. Not just got misty-eyed, but wept. After seeing Him cry, the Jews (not big fans of Jesus, if you remember) said, “See how he loved him!”

The reason Jesus allowed Lazarus to die wasn’t that Jesus lacked power and it wasn’t that He lacked love. Why, then, did He allow it? It was because those watching lacked faith.

That’s what Jesus said to His disciples: ” . . . for your sake I am glad that I was not there [that is, to heal Lazarus] so that you may believe . . .”

Of course Jesus’ disciples already believed in Jesus at that point (otherwise they wouldn’t have been following Him). But Jesus knew their faith needed to grow. 

Three Things To Learn

The story of Lazarus shows us three things to learn about how Jesus uses pain in our lives as His followers:

  1. Jesus doesn’t cause our pain, but He does allow it.
  2. Jesus feels our pain. He wept when Lazarus died, just like Mary and Martha. He feels the hurt of all of His sheep.
  3. Jesus uses our pain to grow our faith. Mary, Martha, and His disciples needed their faith to grow. And Jesus’ work through the death and resurrection of Lazarus was the tool to grow their faith. Before Jesus raised Lazarus, they knew He could stop death, but they didn’t know He could reverse it.

Jesus can prevent every painful event from happening to us. But He doesn’t. It’s not because He doesn’t love us, it’s because He loves us. He’s preparing us for something even better than painlessness. He’s preparing us for glory.