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John 11:15

Posted 11/25/21, by Dan Vis

There are some things Jesus expressed gratitude that might not seem all that positive at first, but it's only because He saw the bigger picture. And if we struggle with unanswered prayer, we may need to ask God to help us do the same.

Take for example the story of Lazarus. He was a close friend of Jesus who had taken a turn for the worse. His sisters were praying for Jesus to come and heal him. And they sent messengers begging Jesus to come. But He refused. And in turn, Lazarus died.

Then these words from Jesus:

John 11:15
And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

There's a couple things worth noticing about this verse. First, and most obviously, this decision to hold off on going to see Lazarus, must have broken the hearts of Mary and Martha. When Jesus did finally show up, Martha greeted Him with these words: "If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died" (John 11:21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.). Later, Mary said exactly the same thing (John 11:32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.). They were both counting on Jesus, but He chose not to answer their prayers. At least not they way they expected. Their last hopes were dashed, no doubt, the moment Lazarus breathed his last.

Second, Jesus carefully qualified the gladness He felt about not being there. He was glad for the sake of the disciples. Not glad in general. The heart of Jesus is always touched by human suffering. When Jesus did arrive, and saw the heartache of those mourning Lazarus, Jesus Himself broke into tears (John 11:32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.). So while He may not answer prayers just the way we think He should, it's not because He doesn't want to. It's only because He has some higher purpose, perhaps involving people we don't even know. I'm sure Mary and Martha weren't thinking about what was best for the twelve. Or for that matter, about any of us living down here 2000 years later and reading their story. But Jesus was.

And third, Jesus was glad because He knew this story was going to have a surprise ending--one that would strengthen the faith of His disciples. And the faith of Mary and Martha. And Lazarus too. And countless others. He did it for a purpose, "to the intent ye may believe". We too can be thankful for our unanswered prayers, even if we don't understand the reason, because we can be sure some reason exists.

And last, Jesus said, "nevertheless let us go unto him". Even though Lazarus is dead. Even though it was a dangerous move politically. Even though everything now seems beyond hope. Let's go, just the same. Which is just another way of saying, God has a thousand solutions for our problems where we may only see one or two. In fact, God may allow our trials just to teach us that lesson. That God can turn our greatest disappointments into our greatest joys. Our greatest thanksgiving stories.

It may take time to unfold, and we may not understand it all until Jesus returns and we can ask our questions in person. But we can rest assured, God has a plan for every unanswered prayer.

So just like Jesus, we can learn to be thankful when prayers are not answered.

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Posted by Dan Vis on 11/26/21
That's a worthwhile point Kathryn, that we always know what is best for us, and that Christ is working things out for our ultimate salvation and the salvation of others. So we need to keep trusting...

We do sometimes get a "no" answer Lynie. In some cases He may have something better in store, in others, it's a true loss for which we'll receive a better reward later. There's no limit to His miracle working power (as you point out), but He does know what's best. Nice post!
Posted by Lynie on 11/25/21
Thank you for the explanation on the story of Lazarus. It reflects me when I pray but the answer is No..But through the trials of difficulty, God wants us to spend time with HIM and pray earnestly. HE show to me and others that HE is still the same yesterday, today and forever..Miracles still happen until now.
Posted by Kathryn D. Search on 11/25/21
Yes, it is hard sometimes to know why we have to go through trials in life. But we have to trust in His wise planning for our good. So when answers are delayed or not as we expect, we need to keep on trusting and praying that God's will be done. And that Christ will save us in spite of our selves, our weak unchristlike selves. He knows just what will save us, we don't.

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