“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby.” John 11:4
Now, friends, this is something to which you and I have to seek quite diligently to adjust ourselves. Let us widen and enlarge the application from just human indisposition or sickness, even if it does culminate in death. Let us view in the light of this perhaps a lifetime of difficulty and adversity and suffering, perhaps something that has come to us for which we have more than thrice sought the Lord that it might be removed, and the Lord has in effect said, ‘No’: there has been no removal; it is something that we are called upon to experience and endure. It may be something in our lives as a whole, or it may be some event in our lives of great distress. Oh, look at it, whatever it may be in your case that you would have removed, to which you would take the attitude that Mary and Martha took. This is a tragedy, this is a misfortune, this is a great adversity, this is an overwhelming sorrow, this is all against us, all contrary to our good and to our blessing and to our joy. The Word of God makes it clear in more than one place that there is a sovereignty behind the lives of His own, “the called according to His purpose”, which may have not just let that thing happen, but actually ordained it, and made that very thing, ordered by the will of God, the means by which something should come from our lives very much to the glory of God.
I know that it is not easy to take that attitude toward things when you are in them – it is the most difficult thing; but here is something which is concrete as a statement, and it says in a general way to us, “to them that love God… that are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28): ‘You who love the Lord, there is some tremendous possibility for the Lord’s glory, the Lord’s satisfaction, wrapped up in that which you are inclined to regard as a trouble, suffering, adversity, a setback, a tragedy, if not a catastrophe, a strange and mysterious providence which has reversed your hopes and expectations, all that and much more.’ That may be something that the Lord has not only allowed to take place, but has arranged Himself. In the end, of course, we recognize that and acknowledge it, and we shall not be sorry that we went through that thing. In the lives of those who love the Lord there is in suffering something for God’s glory, and if our hearts are set upon His glory, we shall share it. “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.” (Rom. 8:17)