It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom
always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
~ from The UCCSB Prayer Book
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My Body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is My Blood of The Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s Kingdom.” And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and He said to His disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, He began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then He said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me.” And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
~Jesus, King of The Universe, and my Best Friend in Matthew 26
Oh beloved, it is true.
It is easy to get distracted by the pain and sorrow in our life. Pain and loss are real, but we can fall into a trap where we hold onto the pain through self-pity and self-promotion. And often the pain and loss we have in our lives is self-caused. However, this entry is not about that.
This entry is about the kind of pain that may never leave us in this life.
Oh yes, joy comes in the morning. And the kind of pain this writer is trying to describe really does have joy wrapped up in it. However, for any of you who have felt the heaviness of an ongoing sorrow, you know that joy gets the happiness distilled out of it, by the suffering – and we are left only with the essence of joy:
The strength to keep going.
Any of you who have read much of my writing may have noticed two things about it. One, the words in this space are totally hopeful, and give off the fragrance of victory in Christ. Two, you may have read of the pain that the writer has lived through. To be clear, though, I share the latter to help us get a deeper hold on the former.
Still, the sorrow is sometimes so heavy.
The losses, abuse, and betrayals that I have experienced sometimes leave me gasping for air. The shattered relationships, the life-altering lies told about me, and a background of abuse that makes it hard for me to trust anyone are tough for sure. But there have also been a few times where I needed to make decisions that would knowingly bring severe suffering upon myself. I am not unique, but some of these tough calls have been doozies. And I guess, after a few decades of some of this – it starts to feel pretty useless. Like: G_d, don’t you even care??!!!???!!!
I finally saw it.
It took me hundreds of times of reading and thinking through the passionate night when Jesus instituted the New Covenant in His blood, and then nearly died from the stress of the hours leading up to His arrest and very real 3-day execution.
Can we see it?
Jesus is fully human and fully G_d. This is deep mystery, but it is a non-negotiable for those who claim to follow Christ. And, as G_d, He had the authority to take the sins of the world upon Himself; purchase, and cancel that debt by the offering of His Perfect Blood. Many of us understand this (at least a little). The Creator offering Himself as a substitute for us is rightly seen as a very big deal.
But as a man, Jesus carried the sorrow of the dark world He had entered into. Jesus ached in ways that none of us will ever fully comprehend. He walked through 33 years of completely identifying with the misery of the miserable around Him. He felt the full measure of all of the world’s pain.
As Divine, this was doable. As a man, it nearly crushed Him. In the passage above, we see Jesus asking for His friends to take watch with Him and pray. His sorrow at the coming epic battle, and the dark mess He knew would soon engulf Him, was going to tear Him away from His Father’s Presence for a time – the only time in forever. And the mere thought of this nearly killed Him. Why did He go through it? Why did He endure decades of sorrow, capped by a galactic tsunami of spiritual and physical pain at the cross?
Don’t stop reading.
Jesus was taking the long view on all of this. Jesus could see that there was infinite value in what He was enduring. Jesus was seeing the outcome from the other side of eternity. Jesus was seeing that the loss and sorrow and pain were truly worth considering, but they would be laying the foundation of a Righteous Kingdom where both HIS, AND OUR own darkness and sorrow will be swallowed up in The Great Light of His victory over time, pain, chance, death and sin. Said more simply, Jesus did not just endure the cross to save us from hell. Jesus utterly embraced the cross because He knew the Heavenly Home into which His work would lead billions.
The Apostle Paul makes an enigmatic statement in his letter to the Colossians. He says that he “rejoices in his suffering that it may fill up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” Now, this does not mean that Jesus’s suffering and work fell short. What he meant was that our suffering is not wasted. As we participate in that suffering – it holds the promise of helping ourselves and others in eternally significant ways.
Are you suffering? Do you have sorrow beyond measure and don’t know what to do with it? Do you “get it” when Jesus speaks in the passage above saying “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with Me?” Our L_RD Christ has an invitation for us. Offer the sorrow up to Him. Wish for it to pass, but allow The Father to have His way with you. Allow yourself to be pulled into the salvific suffering that Christ endures for us.
Allow yourself to take the long view on lament.
Tonight is your night. Time to remember that sorrow is not wasted. Suffering is not meaningless. Loss and betrayal are quite real in the here and now. But, just as Jesus swallowed up death in His victory, your pain will bring great good as well. Hurt yes, but hurt knowing that your hurt may be the very thing that brings real healing, and the Blessed Hope of eternal life to someone (or many) in this world.
I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
~Rainer Maria Wilke
Written by Makala Doulos: Makala Doulos is a child of G_d, a husband to his wife, a father to his children, and a teacher to his students. But mostly, he is a prisoner set free by Jesus. Love has invaded his life, crushed it, and made it new. Now, G_d’s Love is what constrains him to live in full surrender to the freedom The Father and Son and Holy Spirit have bought for us all. Grace and Peace to you all.
Think About This: “Grace is greater than all of the sin we’re grappling with.” ―