If You Had Been Here


I just read the account of Lazarus’s resurrection in John 11. There are two verses in the passage that I could chew on for a lifetime and never really fully grasp. This is a lesson that will challenge me until I go Home.

Here we have the story of three of Jesus’ friends who desperately need His help.

John 11:3 tells us that the message the sisters sent to Jesus was, “he whom You love is sick.” Though Jesus shows no partiality, clearly these are people who are precious to Him.

I’m sure that sending for Jesus was the first order of business. They had a deep, personal relationship with Jesus and every reason to expect Him to rush to their aid. I doubt if they were even that concerned in the beginning.

“Not to worry,” they must have said. “Jesus will be here any moment.”

But time dragged by and He didn’t show. They waited, anxiety intensifying along with their brother’s illness. I can picture them taking turns watching over their brother and watching for the Lord. Much like Elijah’s servant in 1 Kings 18:43.

I can just see Mary coming back to Lazarus’s bedside to tell Martha that Jesus still isn’t there. “Go back, look again.”

They reach the eleventh hour and still no sign of their beloved Jesus. Then, the unthinkable: they lose Lazarus.

After he’s dead and gone four days, after he’s already in the ground, that’s when Jesus comes. I don’t think either of the sisters were happy with Him. Mary didn’t even go see Him (John 11:20). This is the Mary who’d chosen the ‘one thing,’ but she’s too heartsick to sit at Jesus’ feet in that moment.

When she does go to Jesus, she echoes her sister’s sentiment; “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Can you hear the accusation? The confusion and pain?

They’re crying out to Jesus, saying, “Lord, you let me down.”

How many times do our own hearts entertain this thought?

Perhaps the unthinkable has happened to you too and you’ve lost a loved one. Or maybe you’ve felt the sting of an unanswered prayer in a different area of your life.

“Lord, if You had been here, the money wouldn’t have run out.”

“Lord, if You had been here, it would be my wedding day instead.”

“Lord, if You had been here, we would have a child by now.”

But look at the very beginning of John 11:

‘Now 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

That doesn’t sound right. If He loved them, shouldn’t He have rushed to their side immediately? In fact, He didn’t even have to move. He could have healed Lazarus from where He was. He’d done it before.

So why, if He loved them, wouldn’t He help them? This doesn’t reconcile with our definition of love.

But we have to remember: God is the Author, the Creator of Love. And He had a plan to love them so much better than they could even imagine.

You can see from what Mary and Martha say to Jesus that they’re faith only reaches a certain point. They are set on the idea that the only deliverance in this situation was through healing Lazarus while he was still alive. Resurrection is not an option they take seriously.

They had God in a box.

“You weren’t here, You’ve come too late. You can’t fix this now.”

I know I’ve been guilty of saying this to God before.

God can fix anything. No situation is outside of His control. There are no lost causes where God is concerned.

His plan in Mary and Martha’s situation was that they would get to witness the glory of God.

Imagine what must have gone through their heads when they saw their brother walk out of that tomb. Imagine how loved they must have felt.

God has a resurrection planned for your situation. It might not look the way you expect. Maybe you won’t get that higher paying job, maybe your true love will marry someone else, maybe your family member won’t beat cancer… That does not mean that Jesus didn’t come.

He is right there with you through every circumstance and He has the outcome planned for your good. He has better plans for you than you have for yourself. Plans for a future and a hope. He knows your needs even before you ask for them. You can rest assured that He wants to give you the same blessing He gave to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.

No matter what your situation is, His plan for you is Life and Resurrection. His plan is that you may witness His glory and feel His love.

Don’t tell Jesus that He’s arrived too late.


About Leah Ness

I am a self-professed story addict. Ever since I was little, I've had an overactive imagination and a passion for a well-spun yarn. When I grew up, I was blessed with a passion for God as well. It was then that I noticed a relative shortage of unique Christian fiction, the kind that can both captivate you and glorify God. So, despite the hurdles of things like commas and homonyms, I am endeavoring to write some of my own. Check out my Books page for updates on current and future books. View all posts by Leah Ness

9 responses to “If You Had Been Here

  • writefury

    Really awesome and comforting post. Jeremiah 29:11 comes to mind as well. It’s one of my favorite verses.
    “For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you an expected end.”

    • Leah Ness

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked it =) Yeah, that’s one of my favorite verses too! It’s such a comfort to me to remember that God sees and controls the final outcome.

  • juan Maldonado

    I’m at this moment now. God if you would a just left her with me…. haha God says she will return But on his perfect time. not my time 🙂 in the meantime why don’t I just praise him because his words are true.

  • 4grace2blog

    Beautiful post and so true! I have experienced this in my own life after losing an infant daughter to a heart problem. Sometimes we had the same feelings…but praise the Lord for His assurance that He has the best planned for us. His love guides our every step and gives us grace for the “Lazarus” moments! I love the way you reminded of us the reward of seeing their brother come back–which they would not have experienced without waiting first!! Thank you!!

    • Leah Ness

      Thank you so much =) I was greatly encouraged by it and eager to share. We all need the reminder that even in the difficult times, God is loving us perfectly. Thanks so much for reading and commenting! God bless =)

  • Mich-in-French

    I so resonate with this Leah
    We need to rest in Him and surrender all our own thinking – after all His ways are not anything like ours and He knows what the great picture looks like. We think He is letting us down but He knows He is setting us up for something greater and it all boils down to how we believe…do we believe in Him so deeply that we can surrender all to Him.
    Well I know myself that in itself is a journey – this is great food for thought.
    God bless,

    • Leah Ness

      I hear ya! I’m reminded of a song that I heard several years ago that included the simple lyrics, “God is God and I am not, I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting.” Hearing that song really helped me to see how wrong I was in assuming that God needs my help, or had forgotten me, or that I’d messed up too badly for Him to fix… I finally realized that, as you said, it’s about surrender. Unfortunately, realizing it and acting it out are two very different things 😉 but He is faithful! Thanks for reading/commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed it =)

      • Mich-in-French

        I wish we could always do what we know we should – lol thank goodness He is more patient than us!


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