The scenes from the streets of Ukraine are hard to look at, aren’t they? The horror of war is even worse when it involves murder of civilians. I cry “why, Lord?” Though I hear no audible response, I do find this in the Gospel record – “I suffer, too.” Before we get to rejoice on Easter Sunday, we must walk to the cross and for good reason.
In an era when so many Christians want only victory the Bible takes us to the awfulness of the Cross to explain God’s response to evil, sin, and brokenness. We have so little patience these days. Along with faster internet and instant oatmeal, we want an instant maturity, a fully developed character in a day. We want the ‘kingdom come’ now. I love miracle stories, but mostly our God prefers to let us walk among sinners, just like He did: loving, hoping, caring, being light in the darkness.
Isaiah saw the mission of the Messiah and described it this way: “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:3-5, NLT) God entered into His creation, born a baby to Mary, lived in the real world, felt hunger and pain, and ultimately suffered an ignominious death on a Cross.
Our God allows us be fully human, gives us freedom to choose, and even when our choices -as well as those of a sinful world- are crushing us, He does not usually rush in to change everything. Instead, He stands alongside of us, offering to lead us to lead us to life in the middle of a dying world. Somehow in all that, we are transformed.
By the Cross, we are lifted and in the hope of the Resurrection we learn to live with tears, while we hope for the moment we are revealed as eternal children of God beyond the reach of pain. Our wise Father knows that we could never be who He desires us to be, we would never love Him as He desires us to love, we could not grow into mature saints without fiery trials. We, like Him, are called to ‘take up our cross’ where we die to Self, to this world, so that we can be raised to a new life.
There simply is no Easter without Good Friday, no celebration of an Empty Tomb without a Full Cross! Meditations on the Cross are so gruesome, so unpleasant, so bloody awful – we want to rush on quickly to the Resurrection, but we must not.
Yes, Christian friend, the suffering is part of this broken, fallen world. God leaves unexplained the ‘why’ of evil, but clearly calls us to renewal through the suffering Savior. There is purpose in the tears, though I am not filled with pleasure in the discovery. But, as He leads, as I accept the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) I will find “green pastures, quiet waters, and a restored soul.” (Psalm 23)
The way of discipleship sometimes descends into darkness, leads occasionally through searing pain, does not evidence great triumph in every circumstance, but the disciple who humbly seeks is always led by the Spirit as he is ‘made into the likeness of Jesus.’ God’s ultimate desire for us is not blue skies and untroubled minds. It is that we would love Him more than life itself and find our Hope in His embrace.
So, in the middle of Lent, the season of suffering before the Victory, here is a word for suffering followers of the suffering Savior. Jesus “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11, NIV)
God lead us to the Cross, even as we keep the Empty Tomb in view. Give us strength to walk steadily in faith, growing in grace so that the glory of God shines brilliantly through us in this very dark world. In the name of Jesus, Amen
In the cross of Christ I glory
Tow’ring o’er the wrecks of time
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime
When the woes of life o’ertake me
Hopes deceive and fears annoy
Never shall the cross forsake me
Lo it glows with peace and joy
When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds more luster to the day
Bane and blessing pain and pleasure
By the cross are sanctified
Peace is there that knows no measure
Joys that through all time abide
© Words: Public Domain