Thursday, May 5, 2011

Second-Guessing God's Goodness: The Conclusion

Conclusion of this story series ...

Let's face it. Bad things happen. Terrible things happen. And through all of it, all of us, even the strongest of believers, second-guess God's goodness.

I love the story of Lazarus's rise from death because of the complexity of reactions of the people affected by it. We can all see ourselves in at least one of these people.

Which one are you?

1) Thomas, the logical disciple: If you're a Thomas, you cling to the obvious. You may be loyal to Jesus on pain of death, but seeing past the small picture into the larger eternal one is a leap for you. You may feel like God allows bad things to happen, and you don't fault Him for it, but you also don't expect big things of Him, either. You're not going to get your hopes up that He'll rise to the occasion on your behalf. You're going to see the situation through, keep believing in God, but not believe enough that He will turn tragedy into victory.

2) Martha and Mary, the wounded sisters: If you're a Martha or a Mary, you ask the question, "If You loved me, why weren't You here to prevent this from happening?" You're mad at God, thinking that He ignored your plight, even though you've been faithful to Him. You don't understand why He'd sit silently by while a horrible thing occurred. And yet, when you do finally fall at His feet and weep, you sense His calm and love. Your heart turns towards Him. You believe in His goodness, and you trust that even in the blackest of days, God is working to bring good to your life again.

3) The Religious Leaders: If you're a Pharisee, you do a great job of faking faith. You put on a terrific show of loving God and being concerned for those in need. But when push comes to shove, you sincerely doubt God's goodness. When God does a miracle for you or in front of you, you easily dismiss it for a logical or scientific reason. In short, you're not going to believe in God for any reason. And you'll do anything you can to sow the seeds of doubt into the hearts of others.

And what is God's reaction to all of this?

Well, to know that, we have to look at what Jesus did.

1) He cried with those who were in pain. He didn't want them to have to go through any of it. But the fallen world brings along with it imperfections and evil -- and death. Man's sin brings bad things into men's lives. God won't prevent bad things from happening to you. But He will cry with you.

2) He felt anger at the situation. God is just as angry as you are at what has happened. In fact, He's angrier than you'll ever be. He knows more than any of us the cost. He gave His own Son to die on the cross so that we can live in a spirit of freedom. We can look at these tragedies in the face and say, "You will not defeat me, because God has defeated you." And God has. God defeated death. God defeated evil. God defeated sin. God doesn't prevent it from happening, no. But by Jesus's death on the cross, we can receive forgiveness for our sins, live in harmony and in trust and in love with God. And when this life is over, when we ourselves face death's grim face, death will not have power over us, just as it didn't over Lazarus. Our spirits will be raised to be with God in a place that is no longer touched by sorrow or pain.

3) He acted in spite of their unbelief. Even though some people were muttering against Him, saying He could have healed Lazarus, Jesus acted. Even though His closest friends doubted Him and asked where He'd been, Jesus acted. Even though His disciple Thomas gave a rousing show of support but fell short of expecting Jesus to do the impossible, Jesus acted.

In this case, Jesus brought the grave to its knees.

He brought a dead man back to life.

He turned mourning into dancing.

He proved He was God's Son.

And most of all, He demonstrated to all of us that even when we second-guess God's goodness, God loves us.

He loves us.

He loves us.

He loves us.

Do you get it, though?


  1. awesome.
    God bless
    a born again Zimbabwean

  2. I am like Martha or Mary, except that I have not fallen at His feet and wept. He keeps showing His love, but I have trouble trusting Him.

  3. God bless you, jbowers. If I can do anything to help, please feel free to email me at, or connect with me on Twitter at!/heidiraff. Trusting is difficult -- just know that He's there for you with open arms and loving you all the time.

  4. Thank you for this series... I read John 11 this morning and it brought up some questions and googling some of the greek words led me to your site. I love the way you write and the clarity you brought to this passage.

  5. Aprille, I'm thrilled you found it, and I was also encouraged that you were encouraged by it.

    Thanks for leaving a comment. I needed to hear this today. If you're on Twitter, I'm at @lovemrthornton & would love to "meet" you there.

    Best wishes!