As I was reviewing the lesson to get ready for the class, two words jumped out at me: if only. Mary and Martha had sent for Jesus when their brother, Lazarus, became ill. They knew Jesus loved them and fully expected him to rush to Bethany and heal his friend. But he didn't. He waited two days until he knew Lazarus had died. Then he headed to Bethany.
Martha came rushing out to greet Jesus. Tearfully, she despaired, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21 NLT). A few minutes later, Mary arrived. She fell at Jesus' feet and said, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:32).
If only. If only Jesus had come when they called. If only Jesus had answered their plea the way they had expected. If only.
But Jesus had a better plan. A plan that would meet their need - and would glorify God. A plan that would lead many to believe. In front of all the people who had gathered, Jesus spoke life into Lazarus. Lazarus had been dead for four days - but now he was alive! Jesus raised him from the dead!
How often do we say, "If only . . ." Maybe not aloud, but in our heart. Lord, if only you would do it this way. Lord, if only I didn't have to go through this. Lord, if only you had answered my prayer earlier.
But God has a plan. He had a perfect plan - and time - for healing Lazarus. It just didn't line up with Mary and Martha's expectations. God's ways are above our ways. We may not always understand why he is doing what he is doing, but we can always understand this: He loves us. He wants what is best for us. He knows the best way to accomplish that. We need to stop saying "if only" when God doesn't answer a pray when we think he should - or how we think he should. Instead, we need to say, "Lord, I don't understand but I don't have to - because I trust you."