Are there times in the Bible when you so identify with the characters and the situation that you can almost imagine yourself in the scene?
About a month before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, a close-knit family of three siblings experience pain and grief up close as the brother suddenly takes ill and passes away. During the painful days of the aftermath of the burial, Jesus arrives to find Mary and Martha, the sisters, in despair.
Literally and figuratively, I have been in Mary’s sandals more often than I care to count. Her words have been my words. Her thoughts have been my thoughts. “Lord if only you had been here ...”
Philip Yancey has a thoughtful book, “Where Is God When It Hurts.” To prepare for the book, Yancey talked to people who knew pain.
“For some of them, pain is their life. It is the first sensation to greet them in the morning and the last they feel before drifting off to sleep, if they are lucky enough to fall asleep despite it.”
So many of them are confused and wearied by the constant nature of pain and the desperate cry for God’s presence.
If only you had been here ... and our feeling is universal. If God had been present, He surely would not have allowed these bad things to happen. Where are you, God, when I am hurting?
And oh, how my life can hurt. Relationships disappoint. Business decisions falter. Career choices are shipwrecked. There is never enough money. Health begins to deteriorate. Dreams fade as surely as the sun scorches the colors out of a painting in its direct light.
Broken, battered, I sit wearily contemplating. Where are you, God? And he finally arrives. Two days late, two dollars short.
Exhausted, like Mary, I only have strength to weep and to whisper: “If only you had been here.”