When You're Stuck in the Middle
"Then Jesus became explicit, ‘Lazarus died. And I am glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there. You’re about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.’" John 11:14-15 (MSG)
The poor teacher couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong. One minute, my daughter’s face had been decorated with her signature smile; the next, her cheeks were streaked with silent tears.
My third-born is sensitive. As a baby, she cried around the clock. As a preschooler, she cried when her big brother pulled her ponytail.
And in first grade, she cried in Sunday school when she heard the tale of Lazarus bursting forth from the tomb.
Befuddled, the teacher pulled me aside after church that day and apologized for "whatever upset Hannah during story time." I’d assured her we knew about our little girl’s tender heart.
However, later I asked Hannah about the unexplained tears. Like her teacher, I had no idea what might have prompted her sadness. After all, the resurrection recorded in the eleventh chapter of John seems more like a celebration-sparker than a tear-jerker.
"I wasn’t planning to cry, Mommy," Hannah explained. "But that story just made me feel so sad."
I squatted low to look my daughter in the eye. "Honey, the story of Lazarus is one of Jesus’ greatest miracles."
"I know," Hannah conceded. "I just felt so bad for those sisters. I kept thinking about how I’d feel if Jesus had let me down like that."
"But, Hannah" I said, "You already know the ending to the story. Jesus shows up and makes everything right. Those sisters get their brother back, and they all have a graveside party!"
My girl exhaled an exasperated sigh, whispering, "Even if you know the ending, the middle can still hurt."
My stomach lurched at the huge truth that hung between us, and suddenly, I understood the tears.
My little girl had gotten stuck in "the middle."
She’d stood at the edge of the tomb where a beloved brother lay lifeless, crying right alongside those sisters.
I’ve been there. And if you’ve been traveling this world’s broken road for a while, you probably have, too.
The middle is where we call on God and wonder if He hears our cries.
The middle is where doubts rage loud, and our Savior grows quiet.
The middle is where life doesn’t make sense, faith seems foolish and hope seems lost.
When sickness strikes, when a friend betrays, when a spouse disappoints or a child rebels, we can find ourselves hoping for a better ending to our story.
Maybe you’re there now, feet planted shakily at the edge of the tomb where your hopes and dreams are buried. If you are, I’m sorry.
But listen to what Jesus told the disciples before raising Lazarus from the dead: "You’re about to be given new grounds for believing" (John 11:15).
You see, the middle isn’t just a place of pain. It’s a place of possibility. That middle ground is fertile soil for flourishing faith.
The middle is where we decide what we believe about Jesus — regardless of our circumstances. Before Jesus performed a miracle, Martha made her decision: "I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God" (John 11:27b, NLT).
And Jesus replied with a promise we can claim for ourselves: "Didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40b, MSG)
Do you see it now? We don’t survive the middle by rewriting the story; we survive it by anchoring our hope to the One who has already scripted the perfect ending.
There will come a day when no one will be stuck in the middle, with no more tears and no more pain (Revelation 21:3-5).
So, plant your feet firmly on the promises of Christ, dear friend. Because life on this side of Heaven is just the scene before the miracle. And if we believe in Jesus, we already know there’s a happy ending.
Dear Jesus, I’m stuck in the middle and it hurts. But I believe You are the resurrection and the life. Help me choose faith instead of fear. Renew my hope in Your glorious ending. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Revelation 21:6a, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end." (The Voice)
1 Corinthians 1:7b-8, "All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus." (MSG)
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Consider what you believe about Jesus. Make a list of what you know to be true of Him.
Reach out to someone who is stuck in the middle. Send an encouraging note or text or make time to offer a listening ear.