God revealed to me a truth recently through painful circumstances. My hubby’s back injury has flared up causing him moments of excruciating pain. He’d been sleeping sitting upright in a chair for almost 2 weeks. On this night he attempted to lie in bed; ah success, or so we thought. From the other room, I heard a horrific cry of pain and screams of, “I can’t move!!!!” Help, I can’t move!!! I was mid-stream (if you catch my drift). Rushing back into the bedroom, complete helplessness washed over me. I’m sobbing, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.” “Tell me what to do!” We decided I would simply yank him up and get him out of bed. Praying I would not cause more injury, I yanked. Hubby standing with walker in hand, still writhing in pain, I cried out to God to help him. Let’s be honest, I YELLED, “Why aren’t you helping him?” Inside I’m thinking, “What good does it do to pray? So many are praying and here we are…” “My heart hurts deeply to see him in such agony” and more. I was not a happy follower of Jesus. In a few minutes the pain diminished to a less excruciating level for hubby and I stopped sobbing. Waiting for hubby to regain movement, feelings of being abandoned by God washed over me; tears begin to quietly trickle down my face and a voice, “Sandra, I know what you are feeling and experiencing; I witnessed my son going through even more horrific pain and for much longer.” A familiar voice… God’s voice.
I got hubby settled into his “sleeping chair” and crawled onto the couch, facing another night of little sleep. Hubby nodded off and I asked God to forgive my outburst; his words still resounding in my ears. I knew he wasn’t being cruel or trying to one-up. (You know when you share something good or bad and a person feels the need to share with you an even better or worse situation they experienced). “Tomorrow God, we will speak more tomorrow, I’m too drained, forgive me”. I nodded off to sleep.
The next day, Bible in hand, I re-read the account of Jesus last hours. Mark, a Disciple of Jesus and an eye-witness to his death shares, that in the minutes before he died, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). From the beginning of my Christian walk, I’ve been taught, God holy and pure could not look upon sin. In this moment, Jesus, bore the sins of the world, both past, present and future. Therefore, God in those last seconds, not being able to look upon sin, had to turn away, separating himself from Jesus.
Not so! Not true! What a revelation!
The idea that God cannot look upon sin likely comes out of the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk a prophet is asking God many questions beginning with the very first verse, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen. Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” and the questions continued. In verse 13 Habakkuk says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.” This statement is not a declaration that God cannot look upon sin as is often taught. Habakkuk is questioning how a God so holy could look upon sin with such leniency. God can look upon sin and has since Adam and Eve.
Let’s look at Jesus final hours. Jesus is shamefully and unmercifully nailed to a cross. He’s mostly silent except for a small interaction with two thieves who hung on crosses beside him. He’s now endured approximately 6 hours of taunting and insults from the crowd; the physical pain growing with each breath. Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A man runs to fill a sponge with wine vinegar offering Jesus a drink. Moments later Jesus cries out again, “Father into your hands I commit my Spirit. It is finished”. His head falling forward, breathing his last breath, he gives up his Spirit. God didn’t forsake him. Jesus’ own words confirm this…”Father into your hands…” words no sooner uttered and God received the Spirit of Jesus. God was there.
Why then did Jesus utter the words, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” The pain of hanging on a cross for 6 hours is beyond comprehension. The sins of every human being that ever lived, or will ever live, fell on Jesus that day. In essence he suffered as if he were guilty of every disobedient action ever committed against God; past, present and future. Imagine the great pain we would endure if we hung on a cross for our sins alone; no one else’s, just ours. I couldn’t do it. Could you? Jesus, completely human (something I tend to forget) beaten, battered, verbally abused, tired and in unfathomable agony, could not sense God’s presence. God never turned his back on Jesus. He was right there with him.
God’s right there with me, and you, when we go through difficult and painful circumstances too. When I experience severe pain and face challenges that never seem to end, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s presence, to feel abandoned. I did that night. Yet, God was right here with us. I know! I heard his voice. God, will never leave nor forsake us. Never! Circumstances may make us feel differently. It’s in those moments when our head must override those feelings. We must remember God’s promise.
Jesus holy and blameless before God didn’t need to suffer any consequence for disobedience. Jesus had a job to do. God was with him every step of the way. To bring the job to complete fruition great pain and sacrifice had to be endured. I’m eternally grateful Jesus did not give up. I’m eternally grateful God did not intervene as he watched Jesus endure the cross. I’m eternally grateful they both saw it through to the finish.
“No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.” John 15:13
Until next time,
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Corinthians 4:7-9
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble in dread before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6