One Reason for Encouragement in Dark Times

God can restore all things.

Ben Hershey

If you've ever started reading the book of Job but neglected to finish the book, you're doing yourself a serious disservice.

The last chapter is the most critical.

In then end, what happens? God restores Job. He doubles his fortune, he blesses him with more children, and Job lives a long, happy life.

This resolution is crucial because it demonstrates the divine, omnipotent power of God to set things right. To our modern sensibilities, the last chapter of Job might sound too neat. It might seem like some sort of deus ex machina—an unrealistic ending to the story.

Deus ex machina is a literary device storytellers use to solve seemingly unsolvable problems.

The term, translated as "god from the machine," originated in ancient Greek drama in which one of their gods would appear from above to rescue the protagonist from his plight. To make the actor descend from above the scene, stagehands would use a mēchanē—a Greek word for crane.[1]

One of the most famous examples of deus ex machina is from the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy, trapped in the land of Oz after the wizard accidentally floats away in his hot air balloon without her, awakens to find herself back in Kansas with a click of the heels.

Whether the viewer believes Oz was merely a dream or not is immaterial; that Dorothy could return home by a click and recitation of, "There's no place like home" is the real deus ex machina—an unexplained, magical, resolution to an impossible problem.

Although these endings can be cheesy or unsatisfying, viewers and readers of stories involving this plot resolution tool generally accept them having already suspended their disbelief for the duration of the plot. (Flying monkeys? Anthropomorphic scarecrows? Really?) Therefore, for ruby slippers to be the answer to the protagonist's plight is not a problem.

But when it comes to real life?

Those kinds of things simply don't happen.

So we read Job with a set of eyes preternaturally set to suspend disbelief and therefore can accept that God restored Job his wealth and health. But when it comes to my job loss, my physical ailment, or my loss of a loved one, such a thing could never occur.


Why Did Jesus Weep?

One of the most moving stories in all of Scripture is that of Jesus's friend Lazarus.

Lazarus lived in Bethany, a small town just outside of Jerusalem, and he and his sisters opened their home to the Lord whenever he traveled to the city of David.

Once, while Jesus was ministering in Bethabara, Lazarus fell ill. Bethabara, also known as Bethany, was about 30 miles east of the Bethany near Jerusalem.[2] Jesus had just been in Judea but left after some Jews tried to stone him for a second time.[3] This is why, on receiving the message Lazarus was ill, Jesus said, "Let us go to Judea again" (John 11:7, emphasis mine).

If you follow the narrative from John 7 through chapter 10, it appears Jesus came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths (also called the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot) and spent about two months in the region teaching.

Booths occurs in late October and John 10 tells us Jesus taught in Jerusalem at the Feast of Dedication, more commonly known to us as Hanukah. As you probably know, the Jewish people celebrate Hanukah in late December. Because Bethany seems to have been Jesus's southern base it is not unlikely he would have spent a considerable amount of time with Lazarus and his two sisters during these two months.

So despite the protestations of Thomas and the other disciples who feared for their lives, Jesus and the Twelve re-crossed the Jordan and headed back to Judea.

But not right away.

Jesus waited two days before leaving one Bethany for the next. Why? It's not because Jesus was cold-hearted. In fact, other than the disciples, Lazarus was probably Jesus's best friend on earth. For evidence, look no further than the extreme display of emotion from our savior at the scene of Lazarus's tomb. Once there, Jesus burst into tears. And this, despite the knowledge that he would raise him from the dead in a few moments!

Don't miss this point.

Jesus, and by extension the Father, hurts when we hurt. He loves us so much, our pain and suffering affect him in profound ways. Even though he can (and will) restore order and goodness, in the moment—inescapable for mortals, but outside of the scope of a timeless deity—God suffers with us.

In reality, we don't know exactly why Jesus delayed in returning, but perhaps he knew it would not matter.

John 11:17 tells us Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Therefore by the time word got to Jesus about his friend's condition, Lazarus was probably within moments of death. The trip from Bethany to the Bethany beyond the Jordan was about thirty miles of steep terrain—at least one full day's journey. Add the two days Jesus tarried and the full day's trip back to Martha and Mary and you get four full days, the same time Lazarus spent in the tomb.

Nevertheless, the Scripture does provide some hints for the cause of Jesus's delay.

He said to his disciples, "Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe" (John 11:14-15). And also at the tomb Jesus said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me" (John 11:41-42).

In both statements, Jesus said his desire was that those around him would believe that he was the Messiah, sent by God. Although Jesus didn't cause the tragedy (original sin is the root cause of death), he used it to bring about belief in him, a belief which leads to life everlasting.

This is how God operates.

He takes what is nasty, rotten, corrupt, and heartbreaking and flips it for good. As the source of life and all things good, he can use any situation or tragedy to bring about redemption—even the death of a loved one.

Upon arriving in Bethany, Martha came to Jesus and the two engaged in one of the most poignant conversations in Scripture. Martha protests that had Jesus been there, he could have saved her brother. Jesus replied, "'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day'" (John 11:23-24).

Martha was hoping for more, but she took solace in the fact that God would resurrect her brother at the end of days. Then Jesus responded, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26).

Martha did believe.

As Jesus said, he is the resurrection and the life. He is the embodiment of vitality, the essence of being. As the Scripture teaches, "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28). For those who believe in him, death is but a pause, a comma in the book of our lives.

When everything seems dark, when life seems hopeless, Jesus is there to offer grace where it is not deserved and restoration to the corruption of this world. He is the antidote to the unpleasant consequences of thermodynamics, an infinite source of energy in a world that is burning itself out.

How is this possible? You might ask.

Unlike with Greek gods and other authorial contrivances, Jesus is Deus extra machina—the God who exists outside of the machine. He transcends this world and its limitations because he created it. The question Jesus is asking you is the same question he asked Martha, "Do you believe this?"

You know the rest of the story. Jesus visits the tomb, weeps, prays to God, and then raises his friend from the dead, his most impressive miracle to date.

So am I saying that if you lost a daughter or an aunt or a brother, that God will raise him or her from the dead? No, probably not in this life, but that doesn't mean it is impossible.[4] As an omnipotent being God is capable of restoring anything in an instant. Unlike good witches from the north or Greek deities, our God is the one true Deus. And just because restoration may not happen in the here and now, does not mean God is incapable or callous. Instead he has his own reasons for delay, just as Jesus waited two days at Bethabara.

In these moments of heartache, may we examine Romans 8 in which Paul offers comfort to those living in dark times. You should take some time to read the entire chapter, but here are the highlights for brevity's sake:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. . . And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 
Romans 8:18-24, 28 

Whatever you're going through, no matter how painful or unjust, is infinitesimal compared to the glory that is to come.

God as creator and sustainer of life is able to restore everything we lose whether in this life or the next. And that restoration will be so complete, so awesome and overwhelming, there will be no trace of heartache.

So while we all groan inwardly at the bastardization sin has brought to God's beautiful creation, take heart that God, in his own time and in his own way, will make everything whole again.

We don't always know why awful things happen or why God allows them to persist, but we can rest assured that as a benevolent being, he has our best interests at heart. And as we endure hardship, we look forward to the fulfillment of Revelation 21:4 when God "will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

So when you must endure dark times, be encouraged by this fact: God will restore all things.

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1. Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. “Deus ex machina,” last modified March 20, 2020,
2. Albert Barnes, “John 11 Barnes' Notes,”,
3. See John 10:31
4. There are multiple good apologetic answers for why miracles, though they still occur, are not as overt or frequent as in biblical times. This article's scope cannot encompass these arguments.

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