When God Delays

Have you ever struggled when God appears to delay what you feel like needs to be done? You want to trust His plan, but the situation makes you question His timing.

When God delays from what is our ideal timetable, are we able to trust His plan regardless?

To focus on a situation that caused people to question the same thing, study the narrative when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. To provide the context, Jesus had heard from Lazarus’ family that he was very sick (John 11:3). Mary and Martha had sent Jesus word about Lazarus’ health condition, and the message implied that He needed to come expediently. Instead of rushing out, Jesus lingered another two days before traveling to see the family (John 11:6). During this time, Lazarus died, and the family buried him. While the family was finally happy to see Jesus, Mary bluntly confessed her feelings: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” (John 11:32).

Read what Jesus did in John 11:38-44.

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11:38-44

When Jesus asked for them to remove the stone to the tomb, Martha objected. Her comment teaches us that Lazarus died four days before Jesus’ arrival (John 11:39). She is worried about the stench, among other things, and she probably questioned why Jesus wanted to make this unexpected request. It is unique that the detail regarding the timing is mentioned.

  • Why would Martha remind Jesus about Lazarus being dead for four days?
  • Why would John keep that point in his narrative account?

Two of the common reasons mentioned are beliefs about the soul and the body. In those days, it was a common belief that a soul lingered around a body for about three days before departing. It was also understood that, by the fourth day, the body is well in the process of decomposition. The body would have begun decaying full of sights and sounds unwelcomed by the surrounding family. This clue about the timing helps us understand the method behind Jesus’ travels.

Jesus intentionally delayed coming immediately so they could experience something greater ultimately.

These disciples needed to know that not only did Jesus have the authority to renounce a sickness but to resurrect a soul. They had seen Jesus heal all types of ailment, but if He had the ability to bring the dead back to life, He could vanquish one of life’s greatest enemies – death itself.

If He had been faithful up to that point in their lives, could they trust Him to be faithful even through death?

So, God isn’t working on your timetable to achieve your desired goal at your hopeful time. What if the delay is because He has something better in store?

Learn to be patient. I promise you that He is trustworthy.