Have you ever asked God to “show up?” Have you ever called upon Him to do His work and bare His miracle-wielding muscles?
Have you been there?
And while you’ve been there, begging and pleading for the presence of God to come and intervene, have you ever been met with what feels like a big fat NO?
I’ve been there.
In fact, I was there in January of 2015.
Standing in the middle of a hot shower, with my hands in a head of soap, I cried. Big, ugly tears rolled down my cheeks as I prayed a desperate prayer:
God, I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and nothing is working. If you don’t show up, it’s going to stay broken. You need to figure this out because I can’t.
Truly, I can’t remember the prayer I prayed over breakfast this morning, nor the one I prayed at my son’s bedside last night, but I can remember that prayer I uttered 2 years and 9 months ago.
Because I had decided that I was done asking for the “change” I had been asking for since the winter of 2012.
Literally, for three years, I had been asking the Lord to re-hab an absolutely frustrating and hopeless relationship I was experiencing. It was awful; it really was. It was the kind of relationship that you can’t avoid, can’t forget, and yet can’t really walk away from either.
I can’t share all of the details here, but let me just say this:
I had doubted things would ever change. I had doubted there would ever be healing. I had doubted there would be anything good that would ever come from this seemingly dead and dark place.
And I had doubted a miracle… yet continued to pray for one.
So when I prayed that prayer in the shower, I had literally decided that this would be my last-ditch effort for the Lord to show up.
And for 3 months, He didn’t.
NO in January.
NO in February.
NO in March.
And those No’s were as silent and dead as the winter I prayed them in.
But before I share any further, let me direct your attention to one of my favorite narratives in Scripture.
In John 11, we find the story of Mary, Martha, and the dead man.
“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to Him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom You love is ill.’…So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
So let’s get this straight, Jesus gets word from some of his dearest friends that one of his other dearest friends is ill and possibly on the brink of death, and what does He do?
Very literally, He does not move.
He doesn’t answer their call; He doesn’t go; and He doesn’t change it.
The man who changed the water in chapter 2, healed the paralytic in chapter 5, fed the masses with fish tacos in chapter 6, and gave sight to the blind man in chapter 9… literally does NOTHING.
But then after two days have passed, the Lord decides to head toward Jerusalem, to the town of His friends. And what greets Him when He finally arrives?
2 weeping sisters, 1 growing crowd, and a man who has been door-nail dead for 4 days.
And what does the Lord say about His refusal to come? How does He explain His NO?
He tells His confused disciples, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”
He tells Martha, “Your brother will rise again. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall live.”
And then He calls out to God, in the middle of the crowd beside the tomb where His friend was buried and proclaims, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
And after reiterating three needs for BELIEF, He commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb.
And within one hot second, Lazarus comes forth, and we realize Mary and Martha’s NO was His NOt yet.
But wait! I still haven’t shared my favorite part!
In a new section under a new heading in my Bible, I find verse 45. And it reads as follows:
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him.”
That NO was serving a bigger purpose, a better plan. That NO was about using a desperate situation to create an opportunity to “wow” the watching crowd. That NO was about His glory and their belief.
So rewind to the end of March 2015, just when the snow melts and the buds start to pop their little heads.
You remember that “shower prayer” I had uttered 3 months prior? That “change” I had been begging the Lord for the past 3 years?
Well, in Lazarus fashion, the Lord turned my NO into His NOt yet.
And again, although I can’t share all the details of this tomb-breaking, resurrecting moment in this seemingly dead-as-a-door nail relationship of mine, it happened. And when I think back to that moment in time, I recall two things that grew.
My belief and my view of His glory.
Truly, it was a miracle done by His hand, in His timing, and for His purposes – not of my own hand and certainly not on my desired timeline.
Hoper, I don’t know what NO you’re receiving right now and I don’t know if it will ever become a NOt yet, but I am confident that the tomb-wrecking, life-resurrecting Savior will continue to use all of His answers for the belief of the watching crowd and for the glory of His name. And when we are a part of that plan (even if the answer remains an earthly NO), we never eternally lose. Not ever.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
2 Corinthinans 4:18