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Poor Mary and Martha. Their only brother Lazarus was now dead, and they were struggling to comprehend why the One who loved him, did not rush to his side, to touch him with the hand that had healed so many others. And with a mixture of faith and frustration, they voiced their grief and said things that perhaps they should not have.
We as readers of course know why Jesus was delayed in coming. But they didn’t, and therefore say things that they might not have, had they known the whole story. Which is one of those sobering lessons for us, to not be hasty with our words, and to remember that we see so little of the bigger forces at work.
But the lesson is not wholly chiding and cautionary. The old commentator Ryle, with great pastoral insight and a personal understanding of family grief, says: “Many are the bitter things which people write against themselves, by expecting to find in their hearts what cannot be found this side of heaven.”
It is true. We are not giants made of granite who never shed a tear, nor raise an enquiring eyebrow, nor perfectly hold our tongue in the midst of great grief, but Mary and Martha’s, who in trying to make sense of the providence of God in the context of personal suffering, sometimes say things about God that we shouldn’t.
But He knows, and a bruised reed He will not break.
DM 5th April 2016