Today is the due date of my second baby. Every slight twinge in my body brings anticipation that it might be almost time and it is a struggle to focus on anything else at all. I’m watching and I’m waiting and if I were smart, I would set down my phone or at least stop googling symptoms.
I can’t help but think how Mary and Martha must have felt when they were waiting for Jesus to come heal their brother, Lazarus (John 11). Lazarus was very sick, and his sisters sent word to Jesus so that he would come heal him. And Jesus replied, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” If I were Mary or Martha, that promise might help me to feel better about the situation. In those days of watching their brother suffer, waiting for Jesus to heal him… watching and waiting and hoping and praying… were they anxious? Were they discouraged? Were they exhausted physically while caring for their brother? Were they emotionally over extended for sadness and rising then falling hope? And then, on what must have been one of the worst days of their lives, Lazarus did die and Jesus did not show up to heal him.
If I’m totally honest, I think at that point I might be tempted to feel very angry with God and I would probably doubt that any good could come from this situation, just as Thomas doubted a couple verses later.
When Jesus did arrive, four days after Lazarus had been in the tomb, Martha greeted him and immediately questioned His timing, saying “if you had been here, my brother would not have died…” but she also demonstrated faith by saying, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Although she did not understand why things were happening this way, she believed that Jesus is faithful and that He would do good according to what He had said.
As I wait for “Littler” to be born, I am surrounded with all kinds of uncertainty as to how the birth will go. I am so ready to meet this bundle of joy, to be “Mama” to another little one, to watch my big boy become a brother and to fall in love with my husband as their “Daddy” all over again. I’m looking forward more than words can describe to little hands twisting my hair, bright eyes, tender cuddles, and even the “I need you, mama!” calls every two hours or so. But it’s the journey that has me filled with anxiety.
Many mothers expect a baby on a certain date and when the baby has not arrived, they become visibly exasperated and make grand (and often futile) efforts to speed the process. Whether or not an expecting mother asks for advice, well meaning people respond with their own thoughts, suggestions and instructions. I have been one of those well meaning people, submitting my own advice and harboring my own judgements about these mothers, thinking “The baby is growing and healthy! You needn’t worry and should instead rest and enjoy the moments of extra rest and peace that your baby has made it to the full term. Your worry seems unwarranted and your frustration is hasty. Just wait, everything is fine.” I did not sympathize with these anxious mothers, even near the end of my first pregnancy as my water broke prematurely, but now I have become one of them. While some of the advice and suggestions are great, and everything may be progressing perfectly, the anxiety of an expectant mother in the final days is real. I was not prepared for this. The hospital bags are packed, the nursery set up, close and extended family members know the plan… I even made a special “big brother” bag for my first little to have at the hospital… but I was not prepared to be so worried when my “due date” arrived. I did not expect to be nervous that negative things will happen in these last days for me or for the baby. I was not prepared for the hope that “this might be the day” or for the disappointment when the contractions slow and then fade after hours of progression or the exasperation I have been feeling when my doctor tells me that the pain has produced no visible results toward active labor.
The “what ifs” have me in a constant state of uneasiness. I fear for myself that the things I am hoping for will not come to fruition, whether because of emergency need for intervention or because my body will not behave as expected. I’m afraid that the pain will be more than I can bear in my body as I go into labor, during the process and after delivery. Even more concerning are the risks that continue in the forefront of my mind about my beloved “Littler.” Considering the normalcy with which this pregnancy progressed and the combination of good measurements and healthy expectations, it is highly unlikely that I will be facing severe development problems or the death of my baby. Yet, the truth is that difficulty including death is a real possibility, and in these final days my nerves are on high alert, my dreams are full of scary details and “stillborn” has come up far too many times in stories and conversations (and in aforementioned google search results).
It is true that my “due date” has only just arrived and that this baby could come naturally and spontaneously at any minute, spinning me into a whirlwind of welcome labor pains and a productive, healthy, successful, and maybe even quick delivery. It is also true that time could pass and the worst possible scenarios could arise.
Yet, I know that God is evident in this waiting time and that whatever happens, He will “work all things for good” (Romans 8:28). Just as Jesus told Mary and Martha, “it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” I believe that He has said that to me as it is in perfect synchronicity with His character. No matter what happens in the next two weeks, for the rest of forever, He is in control and He is faithful.
When Mary heard that Jesus was waiting outside, she went to him and also questioned His timing. Her weeping moved Him deeply, and He wept also for her and for His friend, Lazarus. I think it’s important to note that when He was with Mary and Martha, Jesus did not look down on them for their anxiety, frustration or sadness as a lack of faith, but instead he shared in their tears, knowing full well what He was about to do. As He arrived at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus asked that the stone be removed in spite of the odor of decay, and exhorted his sisters to believe and see the glory of God. And Jesus prayed, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (v41-42). And Jesus called to Lazarus and he came out of the tomb! This sickness did not indeed result in death! Even when it seemed impossible that Jesus was faithful to honor what he had promised, when Lazarus was four days dead and buried and being mourned, Jesus brought him back to life to reveal the glory of God and His incredible faithfulness.
The waiting times are the hardest times to trust in the Lord. In these times, anticipation produces anxiety that an overdose of sanguine expectation will result in crushing disappointment. Hope feeds doubt and doubt feeds fear and darkness feels acutely close.
In the case of Martha, Mary and all those who were waiting and hoping to witness the resurrection of Lazarus, the waiting time did produce anxiety and extreme sadness and even doubt. Yet, because of it, Jesus was able to demonstrate the glory and power of God in an incredible display.
In every situation, He will be glorified. He does not leave us alone to our fears and tears, but he engages with us and encourages us to lean in to Him and to trust in His faithfulness. As I wait and cry to Him with my excitement and anxieties, I know that He hears me, and that He is faithful, and I will strive to keep my hope in the Lord.