by Lenny Cacchio
Being honest with God to the point of being blunt is perfectly okay with him – even to the point of being uncharitable.
"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21 NKJV) These were the words of Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus had, and she spoke these words to the Son of God himself. If you read her comments with the proper inflection, you can sense her frustration. Jesus had failed to hurry to their side when he learned of Lazarus’ sickness. They had sent for him days before (verse 3), but John, when presenting these facts, strangely juxtaposes two sentences: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was.” (John 11:5-6 NKJV)
Here is the enigma: Jesus loved them. Therefore, he stayed where he was for two more days. That is a strange way to love someone in a crisis. But that’s what Jesus did, and sometimes it seems like he is doing that to us. And without the benefit of having the Great Physician nearby, Lazarus died. That’s why Martha reflected an accusatory yet understandable tone in her first comment upon seeing Jesus. “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” And to pile on, her sister Mary made the same comment to Jesus not long after (verse 32).
If you have ever had to wait on God (and we all have), we can understand Martha’s frustration. And here is why it is right to be honest with God about our feelings, even when such feelings are uncharitable. Jesus understood the deep grief they were suffering and realized the best thing for them was to vent that grief. He did not rebuke these women for their attitudes. They were being honest, and God appreciates honesty. Just say it and get it in the open. God is a bigger person than what we give him credit for, and he won’t disown us for owning up to the truth, for our honesty is a cornerstone of our relationship with him.
Jesus understands the things we experience because he walked among us and experienced the same tribulations we experience. He’ll have compassion on our frustration in the same way he had it for Mary and Martha. He understood the stress in their lives and overlooked their emotional outbursts.
And I also believe something else, something that is easier to believe than it is to live. Jesus expects me to have compassion and patience in the same way that he expressed it to Mary and Martha. When someone is unusually (or maybe just usually) grumpy and impolitic, it might be wise to step back before reacting and realize that maybe this person has just lost a loved one, or suffered a financial setback, or had an unpleasant exchange with the boss or a teenage son. This was driven home to me when someone once sent me an unusually angry e-mail. My first reaction was, “What a jerk!” It didn’t occur to me that this was out of character, and only later that day did I learn that a family crisis of the worst kind was its emotional context. I had just studied the Martha and Mary incident, but I didn’t do as well as Jesus did. It was an object lesson nevertheless, and one I learned with gratitude.