Good evening, everybody. It's so great to see you. I want to welcome the part of the people who are not here in Dallas. There is an invisible section of seats even bigger than this entire room, and it's the people who are in Fort Worth, Houston, El Paso, Tulsa, all over the place, all over the country, all over the world, in fact. We're so glad you guys are tuning in with us.
If we have not met, my name is Garrett. I serve on the staff team here at The Porch. I'm so excited to get to spend another Tuesday night with you guys. It's going to be great. I hope it's going to be great. That was a little over confident, wasn't it? I'm excited, and I hope it's going to be great.
I want to start by sharing this with you. A couple of years ago, my wife and I took our closest friends and family, and we went off to Mexico to get married. We were very excited about that. The destination wedding thing has some advantages. For one, the beauty. It was fun to get married on a beach. Actually, I think we have a picture of it here. It was quite a sight. There is JP all fired up. Family on the right, family on the left. It's really pretty.
You can't actually see, but right outside the picture there are these other resorts to the left and right. There is a guy with an umbrella drink sitting on his belly right outside of this picture. We only have this very thin slice of the beach. One of the disadvantages of us getting to go have this awesome experience was all of our family stayed the night at the same place we did on our wedding night. We were all at the same place at this resort. Big mistake. Huge. Don't do this.
We're all at this same place, and in the morning we knew they were going to go back home. A lot of family is in Texas, some in Florida, some elsewhere. We were going to go to the other resort for the rest of the honeymoon. All the people we brought down there are great people…family, friends, pastor, it's just all good. They all have one thing in common…you don't want to see them the day after the wedding.
It becomes our top priority that we want to get out really early. We want to get out soon. We set this terrible 7:30 a.m. pickup from the other resort, and they're going to come get us. They say, "We'll be there. We'll bring the car." We're out there at 7:30 a.m. We're just tired. We were up all night praying for you guys. We walk out there and it's 7:30 a.m. Then 7:30 kind of comes and goes, and 7:40 kind of comes and goes. I'm like, "Oh, no," Again, 7:50 comes and goes.
I went inside the lobby. I'm like, "People are about to start waking up. I don't want to see anybody." I went in and I said, "Can we call the other resort and see what's going on?" They call, and they're like, "Okay. They're sorry. They forgot. They're going to come." I said, "Okay. No worries." They're late, for the record, but that's okay. No big deal.
Then I hear this ding and I turn around and see the elevator, and her dad is walking out. Then mom is walking out, then grandma is walking out. All the Jamaicans are coming out of the elevator. She is Jamaican. Everybody is coming out. Her family is there. JP starts walking down to the lobby. I'm like, "Oh, this is exactly what I did not want to have happen."
I'm picturing, "How is this conversation going to go? How was last night?" What do you say? I have no idea what's about to happen, and curveball, thankfully, they were very gracious. Nobody even messed with us. I just knew it was going to be a merciless attack. Nobody messed with us. It was totally fine. Then the guy finally got there, and I just wanted to say, "We're glad to see you, but you're late."
What I want to talk about tonight is one of the most normal frustrations we tend to feel towards God in this life: you are late. "You should have been here sooner. I needed you a few minutes ago or a few years ago maybe even, and you chose not to show up. I know you could have, but you didn't show up for me in the way I needed, in the timeframe I needed, in the spot I needed."
This is not just a Christian experience. This is a human experience for us to feel like, "God, you are late. Where are you?" It can come out in so many different ways. Maybe you feel like God might be late on getting you a promotion, on getting you job you deserve. You might feel like God is late to help you get in life where your age should tell you you should be in your own mind.
You might be feeling like God is late to get the person you're sitting around right now to get you out of the friend zone and ask you on a date. You might be feeling like God is late to help the person right next to you buy a ring and actually get this thing rolling a little bit. Who knows why you think God is late? It normally comes out like this, "Why doesn't God…" I just created a lot of conflict for some of you. I'm so sorry. I couldn't resist. I planned that one, too. I knew that was coming.
It usually comes out like this, "Why doesn't God do something about this?" Have you ever thought that? "Why doesn't God do something about this?" It's so easy to come up with a this. Some of you are sitting next to this. It is so easy to come up with, "Why doesn't God do something about this in my life? Why is it still this way?" Maybe late to heal a family member of a sickness. Maybe even late to bring somebody from your family back to the faith who left.
I have had more than one occasion in my life… Again, not just since I became a believer and started trying to walk with Christ, which wasn't until early adulthood for me, but I've had plenty of experiences on both sides of that conversion experience where I just feel like I'm tapping my foot, waiting on God, while tragedy enters into my life. I know what that is like. I know what that feels like. What I want to talk about tonight is what to know when it seems like God is late.
Some of you might feel it so strongly that you're like, "Buddy, I'm telling you. God doesn't seem late. God is late." I want to tell you, wherever you're at right there, I want to tell you that tonight we're going to see a story where Jesus would seem to show up late on purpose and have a lot of negative consequences for some people he really loved.
Thankfully in this story as Jesus showed up late and disappointed a lot of people in a very significant way in this story in the Scripture we're about to see, he takes time to explain himself, which is really helpful because there were some very confused friends around. "Jesus, why were you so late," as you are about to see.
He takes time to explain himself, what is really going on when it seems God is late, and the narrator of this Scripture, which this is in the gospel of John, chapter 11… The narrator of the Scripture actually jumps in to explain a little bit about what God might be doing in the times he is late.
We're going to be in John, chapter 11. This is an amazing Bible story, I just want to tell you. If you have never heard this story, I can promise on the authority of Scripture, not on my telling of it, but on the authority of Scripture this is an amazing and interesting story. I'm excited for us to get to experience it together. It's quite an experience.
It starts with Jesus, of course, and a relationship with some of his friends. Jesus, of course, is God in the flesh, which means he had a human life, which means he is a friend to certain people. Not just a friend to everybody, because God is a friend of everybody, but Jesus had real, human relationships because he lived a real, human life.
Some of his friends were named Mary and Martha. You might remember him interacting with them in other parts of the Scripture. Jesus has these friends, Mary and Martha, and they have a personal friendship. There was a third person named Lazarus who isn't mentioned earlier in the story. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha and a dear, dear friend of Jesus. It happens that Lazarus got sick, which sets the table for the story.
Some of you know what this is like. When a family member gets sick it's almost as if you don't even have to reflect back and go, "What faith am I again?" You just naturally start to pray to God and go, "God, please help my family member. Please stop this." That is the situation Lazarus and company found themselves in.
This is what happens. The sisters sent word to Jesus. He was only about a day and a half's walk away. The sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." This will show you there is a very familiar relationship here. They don't even have to say his name. It's not like they're like, "Lord, the one you love is sick," and he is like, "Well, I love everybody. I'm God." It wasn't like that. He knew exactly who they were talking about because he had a close, personal relationship with Lazarus.
Lazarus has fallen ill with a life-threatening sickness. We don't know what. That detail is not recorded, but Lazarus is completely sick. It says, "When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death.'" This is where Jesus starts to make some really confusing friendship choices.
Listen to what Jesus says out loud right here, "No, it is for God's glory…" He is sick and dying. That's a very Jesus-ese thing to say. "It's for God's glory. We're telling you he's dying. Life is for God's glory. Death is not for God's glory." He says, "Nope. This is for God's glory." "'…so that God's Son may be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…" He stayed put when he heard his friend was sick.
If you were writing a story right here, it probably wouldn't say, "Jesus loved Lazarus. Therefore, he stayed put where he was when he heard about his trouble." If we were writing this story, we would say, "Therefore, Jesus immediately went right to where he was and did what he had done for complete strangers." It says Jesus chose to stay put, mystifying everybody around him.
"…and then he said to his disciples, 'Let us go back to Judea.'" Which is the area they were in. "'But Rabbi,' they said, 'a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?'" Here is this kind of some side context. Jesus has made himself an enemy of their religious establishment, and people are trying to actually harm Jesus. They have a plot against his life. The disciples kind of lean in and they're like, "Hey, here's the thing. Some people want to kill you, and when they throw rocks at you, sometimes they miss and they hit… It would be really great if we don't, you know, go back there."
Jesus says, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." Then they offer some brilliant medical advice. "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Which I am sure Jesus had no idea that was true. "Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly…" This is where Jesus takes his insensitivity, it would seem, to a completely new level. "Lazarus is dead…" See also, Jesus let him die. "…and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe." So you can have faith. So your trust toward me could be built. "But let us go to him."
Let's just admit if you're there, you're confused. Some of you have had this scene in your life where you're like, "God, there is a Lazarus in my life, a person or a thing or a dream or an opportunity, and I need you to come and be of assistance." It goes to the ground, and then you hear something like this? It's almost just angering. It's like, "For my sake you're glad you weren't there? You were the one we needed! We needed you. You're saying it's because of my faith? You want this to happen because of my faith?"
Jesus is sending a really, really clear message with this sentence. He is saying, "I am letting a medical and a relational tragedy happen on purpose to form faith in you." That's what he is saying. If you're there, you're thinking, "Look. This is medical malpractice. If you were a doctor, you would lose your license. You're breaking your oath. You have to go care for these people. It's definitely a friendship foul. This is not good."
He is saying, "I let it happen because there is something even more important than the immediate lifting of a terrible disease, and that is that your faith, your connection to God, your belief, your trust toward the Almighty needs to be built." I want to tell you tonight that having to wait does not mean God is late. Jesus is right on time. He took his time.
Don't get me wrong. He might be late on your priority. The thing you want, the thing you need, the thing you're asking for… He might show up late on purpose to the party you're trying to throw, but he is not late on his priority. He is not late on what he is trying to do in you. Sometimes we want God to do things for us. "God, will you do this for me? Will you please show up right on time and do this for me?" He might say, "Yes," or he might say, "No, I'm not going to show up and do that thing for you, but I am going to do something in you, and I'm always on time for that one."
Jesus is telling us his purpose is to form faith, belief, confidence, trust, reliance. It all means the same thing as a concept in the New Testament. He is trying to build the connection and the trust between people and God. That's what he is trying to do. Even though our priority is usually to fix the immediate, Jesus has his eyes set on fixing the ultimate, which is our faith and our view of God.
"When am I going to get married?" I don't know. I know he is not late, and he is forming faith in you. "When am I going to get on a date? The heck with marriage. A date would be amazing! Two human beings, eye contact, free dinner, date. Let's make it happen. When do I get that?" I don't know. I just know God is forming faith in you. That is so obvious from the text. God is forming something in you, and he prioritizes what he is doing in you over what you might want him to do for you.
Let me tell you a sad story from a joyful angle. The sickness thing is real for me. My mom passed away when she was 41. I was 19. She was a young mom. She got cancer at 39, and 18 months later… There was a battle that was about a year and a half long. That year and a half was filled with, by the way, "Jesus, the one you love is sick. Please help." Jesus stayed where he was for 18 more months is what happened.
It was as tragic as you can imagine. Something happened. Because God chose to do it in exactly that way that led to some faith being formed. What happened was… As soon as we got this diagnosis, it was horrific. It was terrible. It was frightening. It was awful. It was everything you can imagine it would be, and some of you have actually walked this road.
What happened was, our attention immediately turned to the ultimate things in life. I grew up in a family where my mom took me to church on Christmas and Easter and, I think, any other time she felt guilty and wanted to take us to church. We didn't go to church a lot. It wasn't part of our thing. She was a great parent, a great mom, and we had a great relationship, but we didn't have faith first in our home. Does that make sense?
What happened was, whenever the diagnosis came in, all of a sudden we had time to think, to talk about the ultimate, about God, about Jesus, about what he might be trying to do in us through this terrible situation. All of a sudden, my relationship with my mom got to go to a new depth, because I didn't grow up in a family where we really got to connect about such things.
We started to pray for one another. In fact, before she died, she left me a note to open on my next birthday. You want to talk about high drama. She wrote me a note, and she said, "Hey, open this on your twentieth birthday," which she never lived to see. I opened it on my twentieth birthday, and it's full of scriptural encouragement. "Keep your faith and trust in the Lord." Things like that, that had never ever come out of her mouth.
Think about this. Cancer is terrible. We're in agreement on that. I don't have to prove that to you. You know. If it had been a car wreck or even no death at all, I don't know where my faith would be today. That was the season. That was the thing. That was the time God put his claim on my life and on my heart. That was the fork in the road where I knew I was going to be all in with God or all out with God.
By God's grace he took me to a place of belief through the tragedy, and my mom, too. We lost one, but God's kingdom got two. Come on, do you see that? That's what God can do when he is trying to form faith in you. It might be tragic, but he is working something good in you if you can see it. It might take time, but it is there. This is his pattern.
Jesus decides now he is going to go. Once he has left, the tragedy happened. He gets there, and on his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Four days is a long, long time. Four days is enough time for several cycles of grief and sadness and peace to kind of come and go. You get to sleep a little bit and get to relax a little bit. Four days is a long, long time of waiting, but he comes.
When Martha heard Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him. This is not like, "Oh, I'm so glad you finally made it." This is a meeting, like, "Okay. We're going to talk about the fact you were late." Mary stayed home. These are the two sisters, and we get two different reactions. It's almost as if Martha is really angry, and Mary is just despondent.
Martha comes up to Jesus and says, "Lord…if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Which is a fact. That part is true. "'But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha answered, 'I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'"
She doesn't believe in the power of Jesus in this particular moment. Does that make sense? "Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'" She goes, "Yeah, yeah. I know. In heaven. I'll see him in heaven." She has no idea what's about to take place in this story. "Jesus said to her…" He leaned in.
You can just imagine the eye contact between the Son of God, fully powerful, able to do anything and this broken, angry woman who has just incurred a pretty terrible loss. Jesus makes eye contact with her and says, "I am the resurrection you just talked about. It's not just an event in the future. I'm it. I am what brings dead things back to life. The one who believes in me will live forever, even though they die. And whoever lives by faith, by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Do you hear him building faith again? Do you hear him focusing on that priority again? "Do you believe this?" Then she kind of gives another little vague thing, "Yes, Lord, I believe you're the Son of God who has come into the world." She is trying to say faith things. Have you ever found yourself in a tragedy or hard time trying to say the right thing, but you're not really feeling it? I'm convinced that that's what she is doing right here.
He is looking at her like, "Do you believe?" and she is like, "Yes, in heaven." "No, but do you believe?" She is like, "Yeah, I know. You're the Son of God." That's not what he is asking. There are some of you who this very night you believe Jesus is the Son of God, but you don't know that he can do anything for you today, and he can. He can do something for you today.
"When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.'" Now here is the sad sister after the mad sister, same comment. "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled."
This is where you get to learn something about the heart of God in the middle of a tragedy. This is where we can see… I'm so glad this part is included so we can see the heart of God when we're up against something horrible and God is late. He is moved in his spirit. He is troubled. "'Where have you laid him?' he asked. 'Come and see, Lord,' they replied." Then it says, the shortest verse in the whole Bible, "Jesus wept."
Jesus, the all-powerful, mighty Jesus who could have stopped it and could have been there and already had healed so many people stepped down into the dirt he had made and cried, the same tears everyone else was crying. He is emotionally moved by the people who have been emotionally moved. He is emotionally moved and distraught by what is terrible in the world. He is hurt by what hurts people, and that perfectly reflects the heart of God.
This is so crucial to know that when something terrible is happening, and when God chooses to be late and it seems like he could have stopped it, it's not because he is emotionally detached. He gets there and he weeps. You need to know that's true of your situation. If you have a situation that is weep worthy, Jesus joins you in that. It means that God's delaying is never God detaching.
What does that mean? It means if God chooses to take his time in your life, and something doesn't go the right way and you end up hurt, you end up in a terrible situation and it's just broken, and it seems like he is the one to blame, he is not emotionally detached. This has the power to lift such heavy burdens.
Think about the worst parts of your life, the parts where you needed him, man. The times when he needed to show up and he just didn't and something broke and something hit the fan. A marriage ended or a relationship ended or your health ended or your money ended. Something just ended, and it was awful. You need to know his emotional closeness to the situation is fully felt.
Where was he when I got lied to? Where was he when I got fired and I was so upset? Answer: he was upset. Where was God? Where was God when I got assaulted and wept? He was weeping. That's where he was. He walks with us through these things. Where was he when you got hurt? Answer: he was hurt. Where was he whenever you were broken? He was broken. Not his strength, but his heart. Broken for whatever you went through.
I don't know how long your list of hurts is in this life. I don't know if it's longer than the person's next to you. I don't know if it's longer than the brothers or sisters you grew up with. I don't know if it's longer than mine. However long your list of hurts is in this life, even if they're self-caused, it breaks God's heart that you have been through a situation that caused tears to come out of your face. So much so that he chose to do the very same thing. Even though he knew he could have fixed it, he chose to engage in it. This is so powerful.
I don't know that most people don't care about God as much as they make it seem. Do you ever run into people and it just seems like they don't care about God? I'm convinced they think God doesn't care about them and it forms so much of what they do. God cares. He knows and he cares. "Then the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!' But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?'"
You know you can stay mad at God as long as you want, right? You can stay mad at God as long as you want. Some of them say, "Couldn't he have stopped this?" Some people see his heart, his broken heart and the heart of God reaching out to people who are hurting, and they go, "Oh, at least he loves us." Other people go, "Oh, he could have stopped it." This is the fork in the road that will influence you for years.
If you want to stay mad about whatever bad happened to you, and I promise you, if you told me what bad had happened to you, I wouldn't brush it off… I might weep with you, because whatever bad happened to you, I believe it was bad. I don't need to disprove that. God is not saying it's not bad. If you choose to stay mad and upset, "He could have stopped it," if you want to get stuck on that one little piece of reality, "He could have stopped it," you're going to go into despair for years and years and years.
You see how quickly some people can see, "Oh, he loves us," and that makes all the difference. That's going to influence where I go next in my heart. "Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb." This is where the story just comes to a complete pinnacle. "It was a cave with stone laid across the entrance." You can feel the drama is kind of waking up here. It's like painting the picture. It was cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
And Jesus points a finger and says, "'Take away the stone,' he said. **'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been in there four days.'"** I think this is her getting a little last jab in there. "He has been in there four days. It took you four days. You've been a long time getting here, and it's going to smell bad. Because you know what happens when a dead person dies? It starts to stink. Especially after four days."
I think she is getting a little jab in there. This is why I love Jesus. He is fully God and he is fully man. I think he gives a little jab back. "Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said…" I love this little meeting with God, in the midst of all the human confusion. Haven't you noticed everybody is confused? Tragedy always does that. Everybody is confused.
Some people are hurt, some people are angry, some people are like, "He could have stopped it." Some people are like, "Oh, he loved him." It's just chaos. People are repeating conversations. "If you had been here, you could have stopped it." Jesus goes off in the corner and has this little moment with God, which I think is so fun.
He says, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me." It's almost as if he is saying, "Well, no one down here has. We have every reaction except faith." He says, "I knew that you always hear me..." Listen to this confidence. It's so obvious to him. "I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here..." Why? "…that they may believe." That's what I'm after.
Start to finish. He just wanders off, and he just says, "God, I know you always hear me. They have no idea, but I'm saying this so that they can believe when this is done. This is for them, the whole thing. The tragedy, the waiting, the anger, and what is about to happen next. It's for their faith." "When he had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice…" Because dead people don't hear very well. "Lazarus, come out!"
This is an awkward moment at a funeral if there is any pause. I don't know how long the pause is, but if it's long, it's awkward. Have you ever been at a funeral where some people are kind of stoic and some people are on the casket and they're like, "Come back." When he says, "Come forth," he is kind of betting the farm right here. If it doesn't happen, he is going to lose his following and his friends. This is all over.
He says, "'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out..." Can you imagine this scene? I think sometimes we read this and we forget it's not a fairy tale. This really happened. If you could get in a time machine and an airplane, you could have seen this. If you had had an iPhone, you could have captured it in slo-mo and watched it later. This really happened. The dead man came out. Jesus looked over at Martha and was like, "Four days…nothing." I'm just kidding.
"The dead man came out, his hands and feet were wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face." When Jesus brings you back to life, sometimes you still stink for a while. "Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'" Lazarus came back to life. With this miracle… There is so much we can learn from this, but I just want us to see one thing really clearly. With this choice, Jesus said yes to what he had previously said no to.
It was, "No, no, no." Day two, "No." Day three, "No." Right now, "No." Then it was, "Yes." By the way, this story happened so you can know this is God's pattern for all of us. Not that he would give us whatever little preferences we have on earth but so we would know there is a world coming where every real and godly desire we have will be fulfilled in the kingdom of heaven. In heaven it will be the place where no relationships end because of conflict.
Heaven will be the place where nobody sees tragedy happen ever again. It says he'll wipe away every tear from their eyes. In other words, every time he was late and said no for a reason to form faith in you, faith won't be required one day because it is going to be all right. It is going to be all smiles. There is going to be a place where you don't have to worry about people breaking in. There is going to be a place where you don't have to worry about someone assaulting your kid. There will be a place where you don't have to worry if the person you love is actually lying to you. There will be a place where the gap between you and God is gone.
Every desire for happiness you have ever had is fulfilled and then some. There, your capacity for enjoyment… Think about this. Whatever your capacity is…like a cup has a certain capacity. Whatever your capacity for wanting and fulfillment is, it will be overflowed and it will increase and overflow again and increase and overflow again. Everything Jesus ever told you, "No, wait a little longer on," it will become a yes.
You want to live in a secure environment? That's coming. You want to live in a committed environment? That's coming. You want to live in unhindered fellowship and get some peace finally? That's all on it's way. Jesus didn't do this story with Lazarus, by the way, to tell us nothing bad was ever going to happen again. It gets worse before it gets better.
I don't know if you've seen the death statistics, but they're still 100 percent. Lazarus died again. Everybody dies. There is still hardship in life. There are still things that are going to go wrong. There are going to be times between here and the finish line of whatever your earthly life holds where you are thinking, "God, why are you still saying no? Why am I still waiting? Why has that still not gone my way?" Eventually, there will be a world where you don't want anything because you already have it in God.
For some of you, that news is so good you don't even believe it. The Scripture says, "How will he not also with Christ graciously give us all things?" In heaven you'll have everything you want. "No," right now is not, "No," forever. You need to know this. If God is late on something you want, if God is tardy on something you want, you just need to know that, "No," right now is not, "No," forever. It never is.
Now look. If you want, if you're like, "Okay. My Lamborghini is coming one day." That is not what I'm talking about. Wrong church. That's not what I'm teaching up here. I am not telling you that one day, if you just hold on, that $50,000 check is coming in the mail. Listen, maybe. I don't know what he is going to do. I have no idea what he is going to do. I'm talking about your legitimate God-given wants. I'm not talking about your selfish, preferential, self-glorifying wants we all struggle with, including me. I'm talking about the good ones, the godly ones, the holy ones. He is going to say yes to them in heaven.
Tim Keller said it this way. It's very helpful. God will either give us what we ask for or give us what we would have asked for if we knew everything he knows. I want to close here. When I was 26 years old another tragedy happened in my life. I want to share with you about it. I want to share the hope in Christ that was brought to me and then we'll finish our time.
I've actually shared this story here before. You may be familiar with it. When I was 26 I got a call my older brother had died in a four-wheeler crash. I was actually in church at Watermark Fort Worth. It was a Sunday morning. A little background. My older brother lived in a lot of sadness. He was an alcoholic, self-professed. He was a substance abuser. I shared the gospel with him a lot, because God had changed my life. I was trying to tell him, "I'm Lazarus. I'm telling you, I was bad. Everything you do, I did. You haven't done anything I didn't do, and I'm telling you Jesus brought me out of the grave, and he can do the same thing for you."
I sent that message to him pretty consistently. One day I heard he had lost his life in a four-wheeler crash. Honestly, I didn't know in that moment if it was on purpose, if he wanted to injure himself. I know he raged against the world and God and pretty much everyone in it. I didn't know if it was an accident. I had no answers. I just know one morning I got up to go to church and four hours later I was in a sheriff's station signing a fatality report, and I walked out with his flip flops and cigarettes in a Ziploc bag. That was it.
I don't know if that's harder than anything you've ever gone through or if for you that's just the tip of the iceberg and there is way, way, way more you've gone through. I don't know. I do know this happened. A few days later, I was just at rock bottom. I was in his driveway, alone, parked in my car. A house where no one lives anymore out in the middle of nowhere. I'm parked there, and you know what I was saying? "God, you could have stopped it. You could have stopped it." I was just stuck. "God, you could have stopped it."
I was so stuck in that thought. "God, you stopped it for me. My life was deteriorating in sin and sadness and shame and insecurity and self-doubt and anger. I was on the same track, and you just stepped in and changed everything. You could have done that here." I was literally saying, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." I was just stuck on that. I was struggling.
I was supposed to get up and preach the funeral like two days later and had no hope. A friend called me on the phone. It was a dear friend who was on staff with me, a mentor-type figure, a few years older than me. He called me and said, "Garrett, I heard about the tragedy." He started to say it. He could tell I was just crying, just having it out with God. I don't cry a ton, and this was just all in. He could tell it was more of an emergency-type moment.
He said, "Where are you right now?" I said, "I'm in his driveway. I just can't stop thinking God could have stopped this, and he was late." He said words I will never forget, because I didn't just see them in John 11, but because I heard them come out of my friend's mouth and I knew they were true. He said, "It's true God could have stopped it, but we both know that doesn't mean God doesn't care, and it doesn't mean God wasn't doing more than you can see. That might be all we get, but it's enough to trust him fully."
That little piece of counsel led me out of what could have been the end of me and God. If I'm being honest, all I have do is stay stuck on "God, you could have stopped it, and you were late." All I have to do is commit to that mindset. I might have just gone away from God forever. I don't know.
By God's grace, he sent a friend to deliver the same message to me that we just encountered that Jesus delivered personally. That's this: if you're going through tragedy and God was late, it's not because he is emotionally detached and it's not because he is going to hold out on your forever. You can bet it is to do the same thing for you that Jesus was aiming to do for the people who witnessed this live, and that is to form faith in you while you wait. Let me pray for us.
God, we have more questions than answers when it comes to our tragedies, when it comes to our low points, when it comes to the why, when it comes to the hurts and the lonely questions. We confess, God, we don't have every answer we want, but we do have the answers we need. We don't know everything we want to know about the tragedy that happened in our lives. I don't have all of my questions answered, God, and I know these friends do not either, but we do have some questions answered.
Do you care? We know the answer is yes. Do we have hope? We know the answer is yes, because a few chapters after what we just encountered, you went to the grave yourself and came back again so we could know we have a living hope and you can provide us life. God, whatever tomb we're wrapped up in, whether inside that tomb is a person or a dream we loved and lost, or a hope we loved and lost, or maybe a part of ourselves we hoped and we loved and we lost, God, will you resurrect, not only the situation…
God, we're going to pray bigger. Will you resurrect our faith in you despite the situation? Will you show us when you delay, you're not detaching, you're working. When we cry, you cry. You're emotionally moved by what moves us. That means everything to us, God. We offer ourselves to you, God. Not because nothing bad is going to happen from here but because nothing meaningless is going to happen from here. It will all be used, it will all be worked by you and your perfect hands, your kind-hearted, gentle, loving hands.
Thank you, God, that we don't just look into stern, angry eyes when we look to you but we look in the tear-filled, heartfelt, loving eyes of a Father who hates it when we go through things that hurt us. We offer our heart to you, God, because you can resurrect anything, and we know you can resurrect us from our sin and our pornography and our selfish habits and our addictions we haven't admitted yet and what happened over Labor Day and everything we feel bad about from 10 years ago. You can resurrect the whole thing, and we worship you because only you have that power.