Some stories remind us that no matter how tough life gets, how big the giants are, how impossible our circumstances appear, God has the power to intervene and write a better story for our future.
What in your life are you most excited about right now?
Every one of us knows what it is to feel disappointed. We’ve all faced disappointment with someone, something or some situation. The promotion we were counting on goes to a coworker, a loved one says something that hurts us, an accident short-circuits our plans.
We feel like God isn't listening to us anymore. We feel abandoned by God. We are waiting on God to heal, to provide, or to comfort. In those moments, God seems silent, and we feel deep disappointment with Him.
Share a time when you felt let down by someone in your life.
Take turns reading John 11:1-24 aloud
Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, lived in a little town called Bethany, just outside of Jerusalem, and they had developed a tight friendship with Jesus. Lazarus gets sick, and they send a message to Jesus. But He waits a few days before going to them.
When Jesus finally arrives, His response was not what they were expecting. He says, “Don't worry; it's all good.” When things have gone wrong, and we feel out of control, it's hard to not to worry. Our natural tendency is to focus on our pain or problem.
Following Christ does not guarantee us a life free from pain or disappointment. And one day it will be our last day on earth.
When Martha hears that Jesus is coming, she goes out to meet Him and says, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died."
You can hear the disappointment in her voice. It's the same speech her sister Mary gives Jesus when she joins them a little later. Maybe they had been talking to each other and asking where Jesus was? Why didn't He come before Lazarus died? If only He had been there.
What “if only” are you facing right now? Is there something you have been praying about and feel like God is late to show up?
Waiting is hard. We hate waiting and avoid situations where we will have to wait. Disney lovers hate waiting. They created the FastPass because we have such an aversion to waiting.
Often, what we don’t realize is that God doesn’t operate according to our expectations and timing because there is a bigger story going on, one we may not be aware of. God cares greatly about your personal story, but God is also writing His story in the world.
Martha is disappointed with Jesus because He doesn't live up to her expectations and her timing, but even in the midst of her disappointment she acknowledges that He can still do something. In verse 22 she says, "but even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask."
We learn from Martha we can be honest before God. We can say "I don't understand Lord, but I know you and trust you can fix this."
When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her and the others weeping and wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within Him, and He was troubled. He hated seeing His friends so broken hearted.
Jesus had this righteous anger over the sin, rebellion, and evil that had brought the consequences of death. It's why the Bible calls death "the final enemy to be defeated."
If you have ever lost a family member or close friend you know how hard it is. Sitting by their side in the hospice in their last days or making the funeral arrangements will rip your heart out. At this moment, seeing his friends wailing, it ripped Jesus' heart out too.
This expression of emotion would have been shocking to people. Back then people believed that God was unable to feel any emotion, but John shows us that we have a God who cares, and Jesus feels our pain when we're disappointed with God.
Jesus stands there with all that emotion welling up inside of Him and loses it. He wept because His friends Mary and Martha were sad. He weeps with you. He feels the pain of your disappointment. We can run to Him and honestly share how we feel.
What do you think about the idea that Jesus feels your pain and disappointment?
Have a volunteer read John 11:25-44
As powerful as they are, the words "Lazarus come out" are not the most important words in this story. The most important words are, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Everyone can experience resurrection and life. That is the reason to celebrate. Seeing a bigger story than we possibly could imagine, Jesus knew that just days later He would die on the cross and rise again, offering hope, reconciliation, healing, and eternal life to those who would follow Him.
What do we learn about God’s timing from this story?
Jesus tells them "Didn't I tell you that you would see God's glory if you believe?"
We, like Martha, face that question in times of disappointment and waiting. Do you believe this? We are challenged to not waiver in our faith when Jesus doesn't operate according to our expectations and timing. Will we trust that God feels our pain and disappointment? Will we believe that He can and will write a better story that will be for God's glory?
Have a few people share (depending on time) a time in their life where they waited on God. How did they see, looking back how God used it for His glory?
We all walk through times of deep disappointment and pain. In the midst of them, we can't imagine how any good will result, but the beauty of time is that we can look back and see how God was with us. He gives us a better story, and our stories encourage others. When we share a "God story" there’s almost always someone who needs to hear it, who needs to know that God will meet them in their time of need.
We have the choice to trust that even though we don't know the ending and find comfort in knowing that God does. We can choose to thank God for being faithful even when we don't see the end in sight. We can choose to celebrate that through His death on a cross, His burial, and His resurrection Jesus offers a better story.
End your time together in prayer. Divide into groups of 3-4 to pray for those areas of life where you need God to write a better story. Pray expectantly that the Lord will walk beside you and meet your needs.