Lenten Meditation–We Are Healed

photo by Josh Scholten http://www.cascadecompass.com

and with his stripes we are healed
Isaiah 53:5

I’d much rather think about God as a baby taking his first breath born in a stable than a dying man breathing his last on a cross.  I didn’t grow up in churches with crucifixes, so didn’t dwell on the wounds inflicted on a bleeding and suffering God.  Instead, the empty cross represented a symbol of hope:  death defeated.

But there can be no victory without the wounds, without the bloodshed and without the death.   And there is no victory without a baby born of blood amid the waste and squalor of a dark cave meant to house animals. Mine can be no sterile faith immune from all the messiness of human anguish, sorrow and pain in a fallen and sinful world.  His skin shed real blood.  His cries echoed the agony we feel when abandoned and forsaken.

Sitting in a packed church today among hundreds mourning the sudden and incomprehensible loss of a sister in Christ, I knew there were many broken and bleeding hearts in that sanctuary.  We were all struggling with the dichotomy of our faith: we struggle to express joy when confronted with the harsh reality of the grave, we know God’s purpose is not always knowable yet we express confidence in His sovereign plan, we acknowledge His timing is different than our timing yet we live as though we have forever on earth, we have seen His love is strongest when we are hurting and need comforting yet we don’t want to appear that we need it.

Beyond the beautiful hymns, the scriptural assurances and the floral arrangements, we were desperate for the tender mercies that can come only from a bleeding God.  He understands how badly the hurt feels and how anguished is our cry.

And so as he reaches out to share our pain, man to man, God to man, we are restored.   Our wounds must be exposed, the bleeding for all to see, in order for everlasting healing to take place.

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.