Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”  Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”  After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”  Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.  Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,  and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”  So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Love can be described in many ways, but our culture tends to define it in terms of safety and pleasure. A loving spouse will do everything in his power to provide security and positive emotions. A loving parent will do everything in her power to reduce the risk of injury or pain. Of course safety and pleasure are related to love but they do not define love. God does.
Lazarus is the one whom the Lord loves (v. 3), yet Jesus does not visit him when he is very ill. Jesus loves Martha and Mary and Lazarus (v. 5), yet He allows the sisters to weep and grieve and Lazarus to die. Jesus loves His disciples, yet He risks their lives by traveling to Bethany.
Jesus knows that happy circumstances, safety, and pleasure bring only fleeting joy. Eternal joy and eternal life cannot be found in such things. In John 17:3, Jesus declares, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
As the story unfolds, Thomas realizes that being with Jesus is better than life itself. Martha clings to her faith in Jesus and finds a hope in the resurrection that cannot be shaken even by the death of her brother. Lazarus is raised from the dead. The disciples see that Jesus reigns over even life and death. In His love, Jesus desires for His people to have more than safety and pleasure. He wants us to know Him.
The world, the flesh and the devil would have us believe that we can only be happy if we live in a particular place, have a particular kind of family, or work at a particular kind of job. We are led to believe that there is nothing greater than a lack of danger and a lack of pain and this is not true. Knowing and being known by the Lord of Glory is greater. Jesus works all things for this ultimate good.