Lenten Meditation–Acquainted With Grief

Detail from "Descent from the Cross" by Rogier van der Weyden

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief
Isaiah 53:3

There is a tsunami of tears overflowing our small community tonight.  When a healthy wife, mother, teacher, former missionary, active volunteer in church and school is suddenly stricken by a virulent pneumonia and taken from us in a matter of four days, there can never be an end to tears shed. Sorrow at her loss fills a chasm so deep and dark that it is a fearsome thing to even peer from the edge, as I do.  Her family and close friends have surely fallen inside, swallowed up by their grief, uncertain if they will ever be recovered.

We can never understand why inexplicable tragedy befalls such good and gracious people, taking them when they are not yet finished with their selfless work on earth.  From quakes that topple buildings burying people to waves that wipe out whole cities and sweep away thousands of people, to a pathogen too swift and powerful for all the weapons of modern medicine,  we are reminded every day–we live on perilous ground and our time here is finite.

There is assurance in knowing we do not weep alone.  Our grief is so familiar to a suffering God who too wept at the death of a friend, who cried out when asked to endure the unendurable.

There is comfort in knowing He understands and overcomes all peril to come to our rescue.

Lenten Meditation–Despised and Rejected

Christ Before the High Priest by Gerrit van Honthorst

He was despised, rejected of men…
Isaiah 53:3

There is much in the news these days about bullying –horrific examples of man’s inhumanity to man, or children’s inhumanity to other children, as the case may be.   Those who are the brunt of such treatment certainly know how it feels to be despised and rejected, isolated from others, victimized and humiliated.   It can be so severe it can drive some individuals to take their own lives in their desperation to be free of the psychological and sometimes physical torture.   Even death can seem a respite from such rejection.

So many years ago, and still today,  God is despised and rejected both privately and in public.  There were plenty of bullies in the story of the Passion but more disturbing than the public bullying by the high priests, Herod and the Romans, was the turning away of His friends, disciples and followers.   This was worse than cruelty that comes from people in power who need someone to pick on to make them feel they are in control.  This was indifference to His severe emotional struggle in the Garden, this was betrayal for a few silver coins, this was His closest ally denying knowing Him not once but three times, this was choosing a convicted insurgent murderer to be set free so He could take his place on the cross,  this was derision while He was hanging there suffering.

Even worse than the abuse from bullies wanting to look powerful and the turning away of friends when their support was most needed:  rejection of God by God.  No human rejection can come close.   Being hung on the cross by fellow humans cannot compare to the torture of being left there by God.

God is no bully and has no need to look more powerful to man.   He came to earth in the most humble of circumstances.  It is our turning away, our rejection of Him that brought Him to come beside us, live and walk among us, eat with us, love us with His human heart and then, despite His cries for relief,  die our death.

Our God is wholly God because He was willing to be broken like the most helpless and despicable among us, experiencing our struggles, identifying with us.  Death can be no respite for God.    Instead of remaining shattered,  He rose in victory, undefeated, with power over death itself.

We are invited to turn back, walk alongside and believe, our hearts burning within us for this man who is God living among us.




Advent Meditation–Man of Sorrows

In my work, I see sorrow daily.  It can look very different depending on the individual and circumstances, manifesting as a headache, or stomach ache, or back ache, or it can look like the tear streaked face of the deepest soul ache.  Too often it is from the distress borne out of the sadness of broken relationships, from abandonment, betrayal, and dishonesty.  Sorrow is a response to overwhelming sin.

What I don’t see often is the crushing weight of someone taking full responsibility for another’s sin.  Imagine offering oneself up , accepting punishment for something one has not done, making the ultimate sacrifice to pay off another’s debt, to walk the earth every day knowing the suffering that will be necessary for all this to happen as planned.

We are told Jesus wept.   He knew soul ache first hand, but the ache was for our souls, his sorrow for us.

He entrusts his broken body to us,  his blood spilling at our feet.   All we are asked to do is hold him and love him.  And the ache will go away.

Isaiah 53:3