What is your normal response when God seems late?
There are many Biblical reminders that even when God doesn’t make sense, God is faithful. Even when we have doubts, God is present.
The first reminder is in John 11, where Martha shares an extended discourse with Jesus about her brother’s death. Martha believes in Jesus’ power. She trusts in Jesus’ ability to affect change. She is not an outsider to the life of faith. And even before Jesus speaks, we see that Martha knows several things.
- She knows Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death.
- She knows that God will give Jesus whatever he asks.
- She knows that Lazarus will rise again at the last resurrection.
Yet Jesus still needs to remind her of his power over death, of his existence as both resurrection and life. I imagine Jesus leaning in toward Martha, just to make sure she understands what he’s saying, as he asks Do you believe this?
Martha needed to be reminded that even when God didn’t make sense, God was faithful; that even when God seemed late, God was present.
Another reminder is from Psalm 78. Far more than random personal prayers collected into a unified book, the Psalms were intentional, fixed forms that were used in worshipping communities and transmitted from generation to generation. In fact, the same Psalm notes “we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the lord, the wonders God has done.” With Psalm 78, the Psalmist records dozens of events in the history of Israel where God intervened and met their needs. So as the Israelites gathered to worship, even during the Babylonian captivity, they sang these Psalms to encourage each other. Verse by verse, the Israelites are reminded of God’s faithfulness, and I imagine God leaning toward his people after each reminder to ask Do you believe this?
God divided the sea and led them through – he split the rock and gave them water…But they speak out against God and ask “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness?”
So the Psalmist replies God rained down manna for them to eat, he gave them all the food they could eat. “Do you believe this?“
The Israelites needed to be reminded that even when God didn’t make sense, God was faithful; that even when God seemed late, God was present.
Of course, sometimes I need to be reminded too, and no more frequently than this past year. When a child dies, and God fails to “show up on time for a miracle,” I need to be reminded of God’s faithful presence. I take comfort in knowing that even the disciples who followed Jesus the most closely struggled with this. Remember in Mark 6, when they see Jesus feed a crowd of 5000+ and then TWO CHAPTERS LATER (!) they ask “But where in this remote place can we get enough bread to feed 4000 people???” The disciples needed a reminder that even when God didn’t make sense, God was faithful; that even when God seems late, God was present.
Finally, the disciples need another reminder in Acts 1. They’ve seen Jesus crucified and raised, and he’s about to ascend to heaven. So the disciples ask “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were still assuming Jesus would be a political savior who would set up an earthly kingdom. But Jesus reminds them “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”
You see, to those disciples, Jesus was late at getting his kingdom established. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Jesus’ kingdom is a spiritual one. So our responsibility as Christians is to help bring about God’s kingdom on earth…
- By living into the power of the Holy Spirit and being God’s witnesses in our neighborhoods, in our region, and in our nation.
- By breaking down barriers and showing hospitality to strangers because all are welcome at God’s table.
- By treating all people as equal in rights and dignity because all are created in God’s image.
- By being willing to listen to those with whom we disagree, because dialogue builds community while silence breeds separation.
In this difficult election season, where friends have lashed out against friends, where fear has overtaken faith, and where walls are being erected in place of bridges, we need to cling to each other in solidarity and call out for justice in the face of oppression. We need to continue doing kingdom work whether or not the political system is broken, whether or not our neighborhoods are broken, whether or not our hearts are broken.
We need to be reminded that even when God doesn’t make sense, God is faithful.
We need to be reminded that even when God seems late, God is present.
Do you believe this?
This was originally shared as a communion meditation at Grandview Christian Church, fall 2016