One of the most famous and frightening quotes in Scripture is Matthew 27:45-49. In those lines, we witness the connection of Jesus to His Father – severed. This mystery is hard to grasp, but Christ made it clear, in those moments hanging on the Cross – The Father was far from Him.
Currently, everyone in my immediate family is walking a path of suffering. In daily prayer, our hearts plead for relief. But I am not sure God wants that. Surely, He wants His children free of pain, toil, fear. However, on this earth, He asks us to face our messes head on. Some of it is self-inflicted; some brought on by the sin of others; and some is the result of random statistics.
The messes we are in happened under The Lord’s authority. Nothing happens on His watch that does not first pass through His Hands. But if we do not hold on to that fact, and that He made us to overcome it all – we will chose to see Him as a distant autocrat – and not very likeable.
That is a sad way to walk through difficulty. To feel abandoned and alone is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. It leads to terrible, soul-breaking decisions; which is why I believe Jesus made it very clear – trouble is coming. If He was not exempt from it, we wouldn’t be either.
When we cry for deliverance, when we doubt and question – that’s ok. We are following in His footsteps, those Matthew documented. We just can’t stay there.
William Willimon, in his book on Good Friday, states:
“We don’t want to overhear such terrible, terrifying words…because we don’t want to know that that’s the kind of God we’ve got, the kind of God who does not always work the world to our benefit, the kind of God who, when it gets dark, doesn’t immediately switch on the lights but rather comes and hangs out with us, on the cross, in the dark, and lets us in on…the very heart of the Trinity.” (Thank God It’s Friday, p.45)
When tough times hit, we have got to remember we are not only a people of deliverance. We are also a people of perseverance. In the midst of our mess, we not only to ask how would Jesus respond, but as Eugene Peterson puts it, we must ask what God is doing (The Jesus Way, p. 38.) In seasons of suffering, we get familiar with what it is like to walk in the dark – and often that is the only way to see His light, shining from us.
The Apostle Peter said it in his first letter (1 Peter 4:12-19). He says we shouldn’t bat an eye when it is our turn on the wheel of hurt. Everyone, believer or not, gets their chance to endure something. God allows it for His children because He is crafting us like His Son. He can’t always do that during the good times. We realize our stamina comes from our belief in His Power; and when it is over, we pay His Love back, comforting others.
When we are hurting, our release has to come from an out-of-this world place, not from the easy fixes at hand. We must seek the joy of connection to Jesus, reach beyond the pain. That is what makes our joy, here and now – and ultimately in the end, so substantial.