One of the most tender scenes I have seen from the Bible Videos is of the story of Lazarus raised from the dead. It is not the moment when Lazarus walks out of the tomb where He had lain for four days that I watch repeatedly. It is when Jesus returns to Bethany, and first Martha and then Mary both, deeply sad, greet Him. When Jesus greets each sister, He gently embraces her and cradles her head against him and with evident compassion, comforts each woman as she grieves.
The story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus powerfully illustrates the kind of relationship we can have with the Savior and how belief in Him makes all the difference in how we view the trials in our life.
By the time it was clear that Lazarus was not going to get better, his sisters knew who to send for. They sent for Jesus. They sent for Him to come, full of faith that He would come and that their brother could be healed.
Meanwhile, Jesus and his apostles were traveling. Jesus received the message and then delayed His return for two days. John records this account in John chapter 11:
1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.When reading this, it doesn’t make sense that if Jesus loved them, He would stay away. And while He stayed away, what was happening in the home of Lazarus? He wasn’t getting better. The hours were excruciating.
3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
5 Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
6 When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.
Did Martha and Mary watch the road for Him to come? Can you imagine them searching as the day turned to night and their tired eyes scanned the horizon for the shadow of His approaching figure? Their ears strained to hear that He was approaching. But it was not so.
They waited and waited, and continued to care for Lazarus, but still, Jesus did not come. And finally, their brother passed away. And still, He had not come. So with grieving hearts, they began the burial process and laid Lazarus in a tomb.
Many people came to be with them, as was the custom. In the midst of this chaos and their grief, their hearts were probably heavy as they asked themselves over and over why He had not come. Why did He stay away? In the next verses, Jesus says to the apostles:
14 Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.Belief--something so important that Jesus allowed Martha and Mary to experience something that was both painful and transforming. He allowed them a painful but life-changing experience in order that the glory of God could be shown to all those who had gathered.
15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless, let us go unto him.
Belief--what we believe determines how we view our circumstances. Martha came to meet Jesus as soon as she heard He was coming and said:
21 … Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.In the next verses, notice the use of "belief."
22 But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.
23 Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:Martha had already said she believed her brother would be resurrected. That belief was common among the people at that time. But the Lord wanted more for her; He wanted her faith to be raised to another level. He wants that for us too. He wants us to have the comfort that comes from unshakable faith in Him.
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the son of God, which should come into the world.
To raise her faith to a new level, he stayed away. To raise us to the next level of belief, He will allow us to experience difficult things.
James E. Talmage wrote, “The sorrowing woman’s faith had to be lifted and centered in the Lord of Life with whom she was speaking...Lazarus was raised from the dead, not simply to assuage the grief of mourning relatives; myriads have had to mourn over death, and so myriads more shall have to do. One of the Lord’s purposes was that of demonstrating the actuality of the power of God as shown forth in the works of Jesus the Christ.”
In other words, the Lord’s purpose in raising Lazarus from the dead was not just to stop the pain and grief they were feeling. His purpose was to demonstrate the power of God for the intent that they believe.
We are all set free by His atoning sacrifice. Belief has a transforming power. We are all on our way to Martha and Mary’s level of belief. How do we continue? D&C 90:24 says: "Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and call things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted one with another."
Choosing to believe leads us to choose a relationship with Jesus Christ over any other relationship. And choosing this relationship as a priority leads us to choose to make covenants. Sister Linda K. Burton said, "Making and keeping covenants means choosing to bind ourselves to our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. It is committing to follow the Savior. It is trusting Him and desiring to show our gratitude for the price He paid to set us free through “the infinite gift of the Atonement." (The Power, Joy, and Love of Covenant Keeping)
President Oaks taught, “Our needed conversions are often achieved more readily by suffering and adversity than by comfort and tranquillity...Some are submerged in service to a disadvantaged family member. Others suffer the death of a loved one or the loss or postponement of a righteous goal like marriage or childbearing. Still others struggle with personal impairments or with feelings of rejection, inadequacy, or depression. Through the justice and mercy of a loving Father in Heaven, the refinement and sanctification possible through such experiences can help us achieve what God desires us to become. (The Challenge to Become)
Last week, I noticed the flyer advertising our stake women’s conference coming up at the end of this month. The theme is “I Choose to Believe” (Mosiah 4:9). We do have a choice. So did Lazarus and his sisters. Belief is a choice.
As we study the life of Jesus Christ and search and pray to see manifestations of His power in our lives, our belief will change our view of our current circumstances. Our faith can be raised to a higher level, a level of confidence, that “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (D&C 121:7–8).
I have chosen to believe that Heavenly Father has a plan for me, and this belief has helped me in some difficult circumstances in my life. Having this belief has given me the greatest chance at happiness in this life and hope in the life to come. I will try to experience things in my life with just a little more patience and a little more trust. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.