There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother 1

It is a completely normal response to suffering to wonder if God cares.

Honestly, he has a whole world to manage. A whole universe. And in that world are literally billions of people. Billions are, in fact, suffering. Plus he is working out plans that affect the whole human race, and those plans affect everybody’s eternal well-being.

As horrific as abuse is… is he that interested in the well-being of a single person in the context of such a huge workload?

For many abuse victims, and particularly those who have been trapped by a narcissist, part of the experience of the abusive relationship involved loving someone who did not love back. It reminds me of the warning about being “unequally yoked”.2 To give, and give, and give. Love and love and love. And find that all of that giving and loving is like pouring water on sand. Proverbs tells us:

The leech has two daughters,

‘Give! Give!’ they cry.” 3

I’ll bet the author of that one knew some narcissists.

This experience many victims have of giving and giving may well be compounded by other painful fallout. Much-loved friends or family may have turned away, or, worse, helped the abuse.

 

Wasn’t Jesus supposed to be closer than a brother?

I’ve mentioned previously, I have a friend, someone who has a deep love for God and other people. But when hammered by trauma after trauma, they sincerely wondered: did God return their desire for friendship? They wanted to be his friend. Did he want to be theirs?

When even to wave at someone and not have them wave back can be embarrassing and leave us feeling unsettled or unsure, how much worse is it to be rebuffed in our deepest need?

We know Martha, Mary, and Lazarus believed Jesus loved them. The message the sisters sent Jesus presumed on that love:

Lord, the one you love is sick. 4

And he did not come. He was busy ministering to others.

Other people came. It seems the family was much loved. Many people came down from Jerusalem to console them. 5 The word used here, “console”, or “comfort”, itself is beautiful, carrying a sense of coming alongside, softly, soothingly.

But where was Jesus?

Worse – he could have done something to prevent the tragedy. Not only the family believed that: others who came alongside them believed the same. And yet he did not act.

Imagine being Lazarus, feeling your life slipping away, knowing you had a friend you loved very much who could heal you… waiting… perhaps confident expectation turning to fear and disappointment. And with your last breath, he still has not come. And that’s how it ends.

 

This story does get better

Even those of Jesus’ disciples who were with him appeared to think he had failed to come through. Although – and it’s so easy to see the errors of the disciples rather than their strengths – we are looking at the theme of being a friend who sticks closer than a brother, and Thomas’s statement opens our eyes to this incredibly beautiful thing about his deep adherence to Jesus. In his falling short, he fully expected Jesus to die here. But in his adherence, his alignment, his natural assumption was like a shrug of the shoulders: “Well, then I’m gonna die with him.”6

As with so many Bible stories, we get a very different perspective when reading thousands of years later. It takes just minutes to see how this story turns out, but when we enter into the worlds of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, we see something different. They did not know how things would turn out. What they saw at this point was that they asked for Jesus to help, believed he could help, and he did not come.

The story does get better, and we are going to follow it to that end. But many of us will have our own incomplete stories, and find in that wilderness some sense of fellowship with these three people in distress.

Steve Wade

Imagine being Lazarus, feeling your life slipping away, knowing you had a friend you loved very much who could heal you. Waiting. Expectation turning to fear and disappointment. And with your last breath, he still has not come. Share on X

 

Footnotes

  1. Proverbs 18:24
  2. 2 Corinthians 6:14
  3. Proverbs 30:15
  4. John 11:3
  5. John 11:19
  6. John 11:16

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