I don’t know about you, but I need to breathe in a soothing scent. Coffee it is. The water is boiling, our cups are set. I’ve opened up His Love Letter to us. It’s over here on the table, come sit with me? There is this section that I keep thinking about. Look with me and see how He does not go into detail here. But can you imagine what He must have been going through? Can we look at this together?
And as we do, I’m struggling with something. A wonderful family from our church was struck by a twenty-one-year-old drunk driver. He was on his way home after celebrating New Year’s Eve. They were on their way to the New Year’s Day service. There couldn’t be a more wonderful family, more precious, faithful and kind and special in God’s sight. The outcome is horrendously tragic. And it brings up the question my husband and I used to try to discuss, but I have stopped trying because I fail every time…
Where is God when terrible things happen? Or this one:
Where is God when evil things happen to good people? Or this one:
Why does God let horrific tragedy happen if He is a loving God?
Unless one can see with the eyes of Christ’s Spirit and feel with His heart in you, there is no possible way to answer these questions so that one can see, feel, and begin to understand how God is in the midst of everything—right in the midst of all the world’s suffering.
We want to avoid it. But when it comes, then what? We become bitter? Depressed? Shut down? Or do we take the step to go deeper into knowing God.
“To know God and yet nothing of our wretched state breads pride. To realize our misery and know nothing of God, mere despair. If we come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ we find our true equilibrium, for there we find both human misery and God.” Blaise Pascal.
In Jesus, is both suffering and the power of Resurrection, both man and Divinity. To know Him is to bring the Divine Creator into ourselves—His love, love for us before we were conceived, His grace, grace before our first wrong step, knowledge, beauty, wisdom and, yes, deeper understanding, of the worst of it in life.
There’s more than the life we see. “We live by faith not by sight.”
If God is love and God is everywhere in a timeless existence, can you imagine the love poured out as the Artist and Author of our faith brought the Story of Eternity into existence with Creation? The sun, moon, and stars, the seasons, the grandeur…a butterfly…?
Just a moment, let me pour the water over the grounds…the sound of water pouring out is so peaceful, don’t you think? I need peace, don’t you? There, breathe it in—take a long soothing breath…Okay, now, let’s take a look. It’s here in Matthew 26, Jesus asks, if it’s possible, His Cup be taken from Him. Don’t you ever wish something you’ve been handed could be taken from you?
His Cup…representing His poured out life—His death. Everything depends on this Cup. You can see here in these verses, that He didn’t want it. He asked that it be taken from Him as if knowing it were deadly. And it was, right? Yet it’s also clear He wanted to do His Father’s Will and not His own. But it was a struggle for Him. He had to wrestle with it. He was so filled with sorrow. I want to ask Him about that—He said He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death…
Have you ever felt that? Been faced with such brutal realities of life, of loved ones or your own, or both? When you reached a point of discord, desperation, or disaster that unearthed you, when your feet felt paralyzed beneath you, and you were unable to move forward? Did it lift you up toward God?
Do you think Jesus doubted that the Father was able to save Him? I don’t think it was doubt. But did He feel fear? I want to ask Him, Did You feel fear, Lord? And did you ever doubt?In order to know and understand us, He must have experienced both.
He didn’t want to be alone. He asked His friends to stay with Him and even told them His sorrow was to the point of death. Have you ever felt like closing your eyes and not waking up as though that would be a relief? I have. I have all felt fear so deeply I would rather dissolve, dissipate, disappear. I have felt death would be a comfort. And I have also felt that it made me weak and self-indulgent.
But here, in this part of His Letter, I believe He felt it too, and I realize how much He understands us. And that it’s okay I have felt this. We are not abandoned in our greatest fears, our deepest sorrows or self-indulgences.
Earlier, I read back through this section and I ran my fingers over the Words. I don’t know why, just to feel closer to Him, I think. He was so honest about feeling overwhelmed and about admitting His need for others.
He asked the Disciples to stay with Him, and to help keep watch so He could fall to the ground and pray and weep as if His own Spirit were being poured out of Him. He wanted his friends near.
Didn’t they see His turmoil? Had He hidden it so perfectly that they were secure enough in His strength to abandon Him at that hour? They loved Him, but they had also witnessed, over and over again, His never-ending resilience.
To them, He was all self-sufficient, He could stand alone against anyone, rise above anything, and had proven He could accomplish the impossible. They must have thought He didn’t really need them. Besides, they were exhausted. Their eyes were so heavy they closed them and slept…as He wept.
And I wonder how many times I have closed my own eyes on Him as He wept.
Can you see how He understands our deepest loneliness, shame, and grief-—those humiliating gut-wrenching sobs that accompany our faces all wet and squished up in anguish?
And on the other side of His turmoil, the deepest agony was yet to come: separation from His Father. He was about to go to that tree, so He could unite to the Father, you and me. That was His Cross. And now we have our own crosses to bear. But what’s on the other side of these crosses?
He had been all sufficient as He led, resilient from others’ perspectives, but it’s right here in the Letter that He admits His great need for others, for those with whom he could share His anguish. That’s hard to do when you are supposed to be the strong one and people are depending on you.
But He shows us in this instance, that the time for each of us to express our need for others, in community with unity, must come. To me, that was the most difficult transition in leadership—admitting how lonely it could be.
When we do though, admit our need, we begin to know ourselves, and it’s then, and only then, that we can begin to truly know God. It’s then, that we come to His table, the table He has prepared for us, and we see that there are other cups set.
He says, Come, I will pour the Water over the grounds. Drink your fill, I will satisfy you. And we drink together. It’s in our need that our hearts are united with His and with the Father’s. He fills the emptiness when we surrender.
He loves us too much to allow us to remain as we are, to stay isolated, not knowing ourselves, not knowing Him. As we come to know ourselves, He calls us out of ourselves, so He can come in. That’s a lot to get ones mind around.
He is so honest. It’s a beautiful Love Letter. Isn’t it?
But what about the drunk driver? He, too, is precious in God sight. Isn’t he?
“What woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?”
Do you ever ask these questions? Or better yet, how do you answer?
Feature Photo: Caleb Dow, Unsplash
Scriptures referenced: Matthew 26:36-46; 2 Corinthians: 5-7; Hebrews 12:2; Luke 15:8.
Post adapted from a previous post “There’s Still A Lot Of Work To Do” January 2018.