Have you ever lamented, “If only (fill in the blank)”?

Most of us can probably think of something we longed for – and prayed for – but didn’t get.

If only…those words speak to the ache in our hearts when life does not turn out the way we had planned. Martha and Mary, friends of Jesus, uttered those very words in their grief, after their brother Lazarus died. The story is found in John 12. The sisters had sent an urgent message to Jesus, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick” (V.11 NLT). Their thought was, “If only Jesus would come, he would heal our brother.”

It’s interesting to note what Jesus did next: “So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days” (V.5). What? He stayed where he was…for two days! Anyone who has dialed 911, and then waited for an ambulance to arrive, knows how long a minute can seem when you are by the bedside of a loved one with a life-threatening illness or injury.
No doubt Martha and Mary took turns leaving Lazarus’ bedside to search for a glimpse of Jesus coming down their street. Their anxiety must have ramped up with every minute of his delay. More than once, they probably released their frustration with exclamations of, “Where is he?” At his delay, they may have wondered, “Doesn’t he care?” When Jesus finally showed up days after Lazarus died, both sisters greeted him with, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Vs.21, 32). Onlookers remarked, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” (V.37).

How about you? Have you prayed long and hard for something, and you are asking those same questions: Where is God? Doesn’t he care? He could easily answer these prayers, if he wanted to…Why doesn’t he? Are you beginning to despair? Are you ready to give up on your hopes and dreams? Most of us have a mile-long “If only…” list.

There are lessons for us in the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus:
Keep the faith: After saying, “If only,” Martha added, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask” (V.22). No matter how long we have waited for a response from heaven, we can have faith that even now, God is able to give us whatever we ask.
Never doubt God’s love: “So although Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.” At times, God’s delays may cause us to question his love, but we can remind our selves that nothing can ever separate us from his love (Romans 8:35).
Remember that God’s purposes are greater than just for our comfort or pleasure: “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this” (V.4). It helps to remember that God works in everything for our good and to his glory (Romans 8:28). The more painful the loss, the longer the trial, the harder it is for us to see that at the time.
Believe in God’s power to resurrect dreams that have died: “Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out…” (Vs.43, 44). If your dream is God-given, he will resurrect it – in his time, and in his way – so that he will get the glory.
Share the stories of God’s resurrection power in your life: “Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen” (V.45). There is someone who needs to hear your story of God’s deliverance and redemption in your life. Share the hope that is found in Christ today.

If we can learn anything from the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, let it be this: We serve an all-powerful God, who loves us, and has a wonderful plan for our lives – even now, when it seems that all is lost. When we do say, “If only…” may it be, “If only we could trust him more!”

TODAY’S CHALLENGE: If you are despairing over hopes and dreams that have not materialized, lay them at the feet of Jesus. Pray for the faith to trust him more. Whether or not life goes your way, praise God for his love. Tell others about his faithfulness.


  1. Gail
    Jun 4, 2015

    What a beautifully written reminder of the fact that God”s got a plan. It’s a good plan and all is going according to plan. Needed to remember that today. Thank you!

  2. Katie
    Jun 4, 2015

    Thank you for sharing. God is so good! I truly needed these words today.

  3. Brenda
    Jun 4, 2015

    I always look forward to reading your wise words!

  4. Angel
    Jun 4, 2015

    Thank you for this reminder, Kathy! It’s a hard lesson for me to remember.

  5. Ginger
    Jul 8, 2015

    A friend told me yesterday God’s delay is not a denial. So true

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