"Take away the stone," He said. "But Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man," by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" (John 11:39-40)
It's a feeling most of us have experienced at one time or another through the ins and outs and up and downs of life's inconsistencies. We dream, pray, and plan on things being a certain way. Taking a old proverb from growing up in days gone by, "we hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and take what comes." Only, when the "worst" does come, we feel disappointed and discouraged. At times, even, we feel betrayed by God, as though He had purposed to dangle a promise in front of our faces and then yank it out of reach at just the time we needed it most. We feel trapped, unsure of what to do, doubtful and uncertain that any good could ascend from the ashes wherein we find ourselves covered.
"Take away the stone." This was the response of Jesus to two broken-hearted sisters who had desperately inquired of Jesus to come and to heal their brother who had fallen gravely ill. Not only did Jesus not get there in time, He had intently waited several days after receiving news of His friend's condition before even taking a step in the direction from where these pleas of desperation were coming. Simply stated, "It's not time."
The sister was dumb-founded and possibly angered and insulted by such an abrupt command with no explanation. "What do you mean, 'take away the stone?'" "Come on, Jesus! He's been in there four days dead and now there is a smell that will only serve to remind us that YOU didn't come through for us when we needed you the most!" "Was it not bad enough that you ignored one dying that you called a friend and even claimed to love, and now you aim to embarrass us all by removing the stone that is protecting his dead body?"
Jesus responds again. "Martha. Didn't I tell you that if you believed that would see the glory of God?" "Didn't I tell you that if you if would only have faith in the faithfulness of the One who has never turned His back on you that you would see more than your mind would be able to comprehend?" "Martha, can you point to even one time that I have ever lied to you?"
The stone was never a formidable opposition to stopping what Jesus had always intended. It was, however, a necessary element in the plan that He pursued. It was never the purpose of His heart to lead them into a trap. Nevertheless, He knew that if they got to the point of total desperation, unable to claim personal credit for any result, their dependence upon Him would be greater than their reliance on any other source. That's when Jesus was able to deliver them from the death of their hopes and their dreams. When all of their efforts were so dead that the putrid stink of decay was evident, that's when their escape from feeling trapped would come.
Are you feeling trapped? Are you beginning to let go of the grip you've had on a hope that things are going to get better? Are feeling betrayed by the God you have prayed to, believed, but are incapable of understanding how He could let things go so far? Don't give up and don't give into to the feeling that you are in a room that is slowly closing in and overtaking you. Trust Him. Did He not say that He would never leave you or forsake you? Did He not say that He would make a way for you? Did He not say that He would walk with you even through the darkest valley? He did. Remember. Trust. Never underestimate a God who has experience in resurrection! If you will trust in Him completely, He will release you from the shackles that entrap you. Stay close to Him. Have faith in Him. Rather than question, celebrate when He orders the stone removed.