When It Is Hard to Believe

EMILY WICKHAM began her writing and speaking journey in 2005. She writes for Lifeway Christian Resources and enjoys serving the Lord as an author, speaker, and podcaster. She teaches via Indestructible Life, a podcast where women discover the life Jesus is and treasure the life God's Word gives. Emily also shares brief messages about the return of Christ on her YouTube channel. Please connect with Emily by subscribing below to her blog, Heart Stirrings.


When It Is Hard to Believe

Dear Readers,

Certain situations trouble us to the core, launching us into a place of struggle. We know God’s Word is true … but do we really believe the Bible applies to our circumstances? Filled with questions, doubts, and fears, we waffle back and forth. Peace eludes us. What do we do when it is hard to believe?

My latest podcast message, “Lazarus: Sick, Dead, Alive,” covers this topic and more. You can tune in to Indestructible Life with Emily Wickham on your favorite podcast app, or you can click the player above to listen. If you prefer to read the transcript, it’s included below.

May God increase your faith and mine, teaching us from Lazarus’s sickness, death, and life as recorded in John 11.

In Christ’s Love,

 

Lazarus: Sick, Dead, Alive

Did you know that in Christ you have an indestructible life? That’s fantastic news all the time, but it’s especially encouraging when life gets hard or feels uncertain. Don’t give up! Satan can’t have you, the world can’t overcome you, and the challenges you face can’t stop you! In Christ, you’re indestructible.

Hi, everyone, I’m so glad to be back with you again.

Thanks for joining me on Indestructible Life, a podcast where women discover the life JESUS is and treasure the life God’s Word gives. I’m Emily Wickham, a wife and mom plus an author and speaker—but most importantly—I’m a woman loved by God, just like you.

Now before we get into our message, I want to draw your attention to a new feature I’ve added to this podcast.

It’s actually an opportunity for you to help me help you learn more from God’s Word.

Goodness, that’s kind of a mouthful!

But let me just say: I am so grateful to the Lord for enabling me to teach the Bible through this venue to women all over the world, and I am so grateful for each of you.

At the same time, Indestructible Life requires hours of study and work, which I’m privileged and honored to do, but it’s time I could spend on a regular job (not that I want to, but I have been thinking and praying about it).

However, I know God has called me to this ministry.

So I’m trying to bring in somewhat of an income to help with household expenses while continuing to write and speak for the Lord.

If you would like to contribute in any way, please visit my website at proclaiminghimtowomen.com/donate, or you can go to the show notes for today’s episode and click the link that says, “Support the Show.”

Again, please know how much I appreciate you and your choice to tune in.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And if you sense God leading you to support my ministry financially, thank you so very much.

Alright, let’s focus now on our study of Lazarus, and you know, I found myself in a bit of a quandary as I sat down to prepare this message.

I thought, “How am I supposed to teach about a person who is virtually inactive and then dead?”

It would make much more sense to talk about Martha or Mary, Lazarus’s sisters, when teaching on John 11.

At least they sent a message, spoke with Jesus, and behaved in ways we can analyze.

But Lazarus? He was sick, then dead, and then alive.

He never said a word or did anything of his own volition in the entire chapter.

But we can still learn from Lazarus, so let’s go ahead and read John 11:1-45…

Let’s pray…

The word, “believe,”—in various verb tenses—is used eight times in this passage.

And I think as we take a closer look at Lazarus’s story, we’ll discover why.

Because it’s one thing to believe Jesus when life flows smoothly or even when it reaches moderate difficulty, but heartbreaking issues like broken relationships, financial ruin, death, and more can seriously impede our faith.

So what do we do when it is hard to believe?

Let’s consider Lazarus’s first condition: He was sick, and whatever his sickness was, his sisters were alarmed enough that they sent a message about his illness to Jesus.

They believed without a doubt Jesus could heal their brother, yet Jesus didn’t respond the way they anticipated.

In verse four, the Lord said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Now, I tend to think whoever brought the message about Lazarus’s sickness to Jesus also took His response back to the sisters.

Scripture does not clarify this point, but it seems very logical to me that Jesus desired Martha and Mary to know the ultimate end of their brother’s sickness wouldn’t be death but God’s glory.

So the Lord stated this fact and then stayed in the same location for another two days.

What in the world?

Why didn’t Jesus drop everything and head to Bethany in order to heal Lazarus?

Verse five tells us He loved these three siblings, so what caused Him to prolong His stay in Bethany beyond the Jordan?

As I have reflected on this portion of the story, I’ve concluded part of the reason Jesus stayed and didn’t run to heal Lazarus was because God had chosen these three people for a very special purpose.

God decided to use them in a powerful way for His glory—a way that involved suffering.

Can you relate?

Have you ever stopped in the midst of a trial to consider how God is using your suffering for His glory?

This perspective holds such value because it allows us to attach purpose to our suffering.

We don’t experience trials and hardship for nothing, and as we yield to God’s will, He uses our suffering for His glory.

I trust this truth encourages you in whatever form of suffering you might be encountering.

As for Martha and Mary, I’m sure they wondered why their beloved Jesus didn’t come to Lazarus’s aid.

Even though the Lord said their brother’s sickness wouldn’t end in death, I don’t sense they truly understood Jesus’ words.

And maybe Lazarus even wondered why Jesus didn’t come right away.

Scripture doesn’t tell us whether he was able to communicate with his sisters while he was sick, but even if he couldn’t talk, I highly suspect they told him they’d sent for Jesus.

Knowing this would have filled Lazarus with hope because Jesus could do miracles!

As Lazarus languished in his sickness, perhaps he perked up a bit at the thought of Jesus coming to help him.

But Jesus didn’t come—at least not right away.

What was it like for these sisters and probably Lazarus himself, waiting with expectancy only to be disappointed as time passed?

Perhaps you can relate to this as well.

Have you ever prayed to the Lord and asked Him to take care of a deeply troubling and tough situation?

Have you ever lost heart as days pass by and your circumstances don’t appear to improve?

Sometimes challenging situations land in our lives, and we turn to the Lord, expecting Him to resolve the problem.

But sometimes He doesn’t—at least not. immediately or in the way we desire.

Does that mean God isn’t good or faithful or kind?

Not at all.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

We might not understand what God is doing, but that’s entirely okay.

In fact, it’s probably good because as we’ve often heard, HE is God, and we aren’t.

We just need to believe He’s working on the matter in a way that will ultimately glorify Him.

Remember what Jesus said in verse four? Lazarus’s sickness wasn’t intended “to end in death, but for the glory of God.”

This statement should have clued the listeners in that Jesus held a plan, but they obviously didn’t understand, let alone believe.

Then things changed from bad to worse: Lazarus died.

He was dead!

And I wonder whether the moment of Lazarus’s death was the same moment Jesus told His disciples in verse 7, “Let us go to Judea again.”

Now, I don’t have facts to support that suggestion, but it’s an interesting possibility to consider.

And speaking of possibilities, another fascinating part of this story is the location Jesus traveled from.

John 10:40 explains Jesus went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was first baptizing, and He was staying there.

So when the messengers arrived to tell Jesus Lazarus was sick, the Lord was in the same area where He was baptized by John the Baptist.

However, the precise location of this place, which is called Bethany beyond the Jordan, is still debated.

For instance, in my Key Word Study Bible, the map of  “Palestine in the Time of Jesus” shows Bethany beyond the Jordan situated slightly southeast of the Sea of Galilee.

This location fits with John 1:43, which indicates Bethany beyond the Jordan’s nearness to Galilee.

At the same time, if this was the proper location, Jesus and His disciples had to walk approximately 70 miles to reach Lazarus’s home in Bethany.

A trip of this magnitude on foot could have taken 3-4 days if they traveled an average of 20-25 miles per day.

On the other hand, many believe Bethany beyond the Jordan was located east of Jericho on the east bank of the Jordan River, which is found close to the southern end of the Jordan River and only about 20 miles from the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.

Interestingly, this site is “in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” so it’s not even in the land of Israel today.

I wish I could share a precise geographical place regarding Bethany beyond the Jordan, which is where Jesus was baptized and where He and His disciples traveled from to reach Lazarus’s home.

Because if we knew that detail, it would reveal how many days it took them to walk there.

Obviously, however, the important detail God’s Word emphasizes revolves around the fact Lazarus had been buried for four days by the time Jesus  arrived.

Both Martha and Mary told Him, “If You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 & 32).

In John 11:23, Jesus declared to Martha, “Your brother shall rise again,” meaning he would rise that very day.

But Martha didn’t believe.

She thought Jesus meant Lazarus would rise on the last day.

Then Jesus focused on talking with Mary.

Well, actually, they didn’t talk much because she was weeping, and the people around her were weeping.

And Jesus wept.

Martha and Mary had experienced so much grief over a short span of time.

Maybe that’s you.

Maybe you have been through the deep waters of grief, and maybe you’re still there.

Jesus knows.

Jesus understands.

But for Mary and Martha, their brother had lost his battle with a serious illness, which resulted in his death.

Perhaps these sisters carried tremendous disappointment toward the Lord because He had not fixed their problem.

Even though they’d sent a message to Him, even though they believed He could have healed their brother, their family had lost a beloved member.

In their grief, Martha spoke many words while Mary uttered few.

Yet their responses to their loss didn’t alter Jesus’ plan.

He knew all along that He intended to raise Lazarus from the dead—an action that would glorify God.

Although John 11:33 states the Lord “was deeply moved … and was troubled,” He calmly proceeded toward His goal.

Don’t you love that?

Despite our confusion and lack of understanding in so many situations, Jesus doesn’t waver.

He carries on, moving toward God’s purpose for God’s glory, and whether we believe or not in what He’s doing, God is glorified.

You know, we could save ourselves a lot of anguish along the way if we would just believe the Lord is handling our circumstances in the best way possible.

With this perspective, we can even find joy in whatever we’re going through—whatever our suffering looks like— because we know that we know that we know Jesus already has it figured out.

He holds a plan, a purpose, a God-glorifying outcome in the trials and heartaches we face.

Think for a moment about a heart-wrenching matter in your life …  something that seems impossible … something you can’t bear anymore … something you’re desperate for the Lord to fix.

Like Lazarus, are you terminally sick and clinging to the hope of Jesus’ healing touch?

Or in a symbolic sense, is there a dead relationship in your life that grieves you deeply?

Believe.

Believe the Lord is working, acting in ways that will result in God’s glory.

Even when it is hard to believe, ask God to strengthen your faith.

He can do anything!

And we see this truth clearly in His actions on Lazarus’s behalf.

Jesus told the onlookers to remove the stone positioned in front of the tomb, and then He loudly called, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

And just like that, Lazarus emerged from the grave.

What a spectacular moment: Lazarus was alive!

He responded to the voice of His Creator, who commanded him to come out of the tomb.

In Lazarus’s case, the Lord Jesus Christ proved He is the resurrection and the life by bringing this man back to life.

May Lazarus’s story prompt us to believe even when it is hard to believe.

In Mark 9:23, Jesus proclaimed,All things are possible to him who believes,” and the man to whom He said this replied, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

I often find myself in this place—believing but at the same time struggling with unbelief.

Yet even in the midst of our conflicting thoughts and feelings, God is God.

He’s always in charge.

He always possesses a plan.

He always accomplishes what He sets out to do, and we can be assured He will reach His goal no matter what it takes.

Lazarus was sick, dead, and alive.

His story inspires us to believe even when it’s hard to believe.

Because the Source of our faith, the Object of our faith, and the Finisher of our faith is One and the same.

His name is Jesus, the resurrection and the life, the Living One.

Let’s pray…

******************************************

Thanks again for tuning in to Indestructible Life.

Please take a moment to follow this podcast, and until next time, this is Emily Wickham.

Remember, God loves you!

In Christ, you’re indestructible.

Lazarus's story inspires us to believe even when it is hard to believe. #podcast #faith Share on X

Please subscribe so we can stay in touch!
I reach out once a month via e-mail, and I'd love for you to benefit from my ministry.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *