I wish I could say that I am always able to rest in God's goodness and believe that He is giving me what is the very best for me. But I have a way of wanting God to do what I think He should do in my world and I often have to struggle to let go of my expectations.
The "letting go" part is hard. In my mind, it's not unreasonable to ask God to prevent disaster in my life. I'd like to believe that my relationship with Him allows me to have protection, provision, peace, freedom from pain. After all, there are places in the Bible where He promises all those things.
Yet, I'm all too aware of the reality that God does not always see fit to do things my way and I am easily disappointed--actually, the word is probably offended.
There is a unique story in the Bible that captures the visual of the "Offended Heart." It comes through the eyes of a woman who loved Jesus well. In fact, Mary, along with her sister, Martha and their brother Lazarus are identified in Scripture as "friends" of Jesus. Scripture relates several stories where Jesus spent sweet time with this family. One such story relates how Jesus speaks about Mary's devotion to him as she sat at his feet and listened to Him speak life into her. Martha, her sister, was distracted with making dinner and asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her. Jesus response was so powerful. "Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--indeed only one, and Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her." It seems that Mary had her priorities in order. Jesus recognized her desire for Him to be center in her life. She thought she knew Him well and that He loved her well.
So how was it then, that when the sisters sent for Jesus when their brother was dying, that Jesus didn't come. He wasn't that far away. He could have done something to prevent this. He could have intervened on behalf of his friend. He could have come to their aid and healed their brother, just like they had watched Him heal others.
But He didn't come....in time.
When Jesus did arrive, Martha met Him on the road. "Jesus," she said, "if you would have come, my brother would not have died." Martha was very certain that Jesus could have made all the difference. And even though she believed that Jesus was the resurrection and the life, she could only see that from a human perspective, when she would be reunited with her brother in Heaven.
Mary, lost in the swirling emotion of grief over her brother, heard that Jesus had come, but she did not go to meet Him. Such deep anguish..."you could have done something." "You didn't help us." "I thought you loved us." "Didn't we love you well enough for you to work a miracle for us...you did it for others?"
Can you hear it? This is the heart that struggles with a devastating reality, pulsing with pain, spinning in fear, and desperate for hope that things can be different. The heart that, in its inability to see and understand, is more than disappointed...it is offended.
Martha returned to Mary and told her Jesus wanted to see her. Mary came to Him and repeated the words of her sister: "Jesus, if you had been here my brother wouldn't have died.
The most beautiful moment in the story comes when Jesus looks into Mary's eyes. The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw Mary's tears, he was deeply disturbed and troubled. And Jesus cried too...He cried with Mary, his friend. He cried with the friends who were gathered. He cried for humanity.
Why did Jesus cry? He knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew He was about to show the resurrection power of God and a foreshadowing of His own future resurrection. Yet, Jesus openly cried with his friend, Mary.
I have to wonder if Jesus saw the terrible pain in Mary's eyes that revealed her offended heart. I wonder if, in that one raw moment, Jesus saw the desperate need in Mary's heart to have what she believed to be the best for her. I wonder if Jesus was deeply saddened because Mary's trust was so small and her spiritual vision so poor. I wonder if He longed for her to know Him so deeply at that moment that she could find retreat-- quiet surrender-- in the reality of who He was, whether it made sense to her or not. Or for that matter, whether He was present or not.
When life becomes a whirlwind of uncertainty, loss and pain, I want to be able to look Jesus in the eyes. I want to be able to meet His fierce, loving gaze and trust far more deeply than I can see. I want to acknowledge my emotions of sadness and pain, but I want to hold on so tightly to His character that I can leave what I want behind. And if I look in His eyes and see Him cry, I want it to be because He can see deep in my soul that I get it--that His way is best---that He will take me through it--and I will find in the journey the pleasure of His company, the grace of His provision, the hope of His purpose being fulfilled in me.
I bow my heart before you, Lord. Let me not be offended, but relinquish to you my determination to protect myself. You alone know best, love best and do what is best. Find joy in what you see in my broken heart, I hold onto You and You alone. Amen.
Shelley Lopez, Executive Director
Shelley has been a member of the Springfield community for 29 years. As she lives and works and worships in the city, she uses the metaphor of an old Victorian house restoration to keep her focused on the work she is called to do. Inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah, she pours herself into "restoring old ruins, rebuilding and renovating, making the community livable again" (Is. 58:12 MSG)