Easter Message of Hope and Joy

And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 (NRSV)

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (NRSV)

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NRSV)

During this season of Lent we are using Susan O. Kent’s book, titled, Altar’d: The Transforming Power of Surrender, to “build an altar with our lives … create a space where our longing hearts can dwell with God … reflect on our sin and surrender ourselves to [God’s] mercy … experience the transformation that comes as we shift our minds and our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit” (page 8). I pray that this Lenten journey we are taking will help prepare our hearts and lives for Holy Week and Easter. Additionally, I offer here what I pray are some words of encouragement, hope, and assurance for those of you who are greatly suffering and are overwhelmingly discouraged due to a crisis in your life right now.

For me, the most poignant and emotional event of Jesus’ passion is when he cries out from the cross these words of utter grief and despair: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s hard for me to imagine that in the darkest hour of his life, having already faced overwhelming discouragement and suffering, and at the point of dying an agonizing death by crucifixion on a cross, Jesus is forsaken by his Father. When Jesus needed the love and support of his Father the most, it seems God totally abandoned him to suffering and death! As my tears begin to fall, I cry out in confusion and sorrow – even frustration and anger: “How can this be? Why did it happen? How could God do this to His and my precious Jesus?”

Of course, I know well the answers to my questions even before I ask them, but ask them I must, as I contemplate the passion, death, and resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ during Lent and Holy Week. Even as my heart breaks and my tears fall in grief over Jesus’ desperate question of abandonment at his moment of death, I feel glimmers of thanksgiving, hope, and even joy rising up within me as the answer to my questions take form: Jesus was forsaken by God so that I will forever have the assurances of God and Christ that I will never be abandoned in my times of suffering and discouragement. This same wonderful assurance is true for you as well!

“My God my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In other words, the question Jesus cried out from the cross had to be asked and the abandonment Jesus felt had to occur so that you and I can claim in our lives God’s assurance that “He will be with you; He will not forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed,” and Jesus’ promise that “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” And, if there’s ever a time that we are facing great suffering and feeling much discouragement it is now amid the plethora of tragic events occurring in and around the world today. Even more, some of us are feeling completely abandoned by God and are crying out from our own cross of personal suffering, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” If you are one who, like Jesus, is facing your darkest hour and are overwhelmed by suffering, grief, and despair because you and/or a loved one is facing difficult and dark times of suffering, pain, grief, or loss, I want to assure you that God has not forsaken you! God has not abandoned you! God has not turned His back on you and left you to suffer alone! No! Christ was forsaken on the cross precisely so you will never be abandoned by God . . . ever! Remember and claim in your life today God’s assurance and Christ’s promise that “I am with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed,” and, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Go ahead and say those words aloud, again – and keep repeating them until they become a sure foundation in your heart and life today. Pray them often as you suffer and feel discouraged until they become for you wonderful words of truth that bring you encouragement, hope, assurance, and joy, as you experience Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. After all, these words are the divine and eternal message of Easter that I pray you will celebrate with joy amid your sadness: The Lord God will never forsake you! Christ Jesus is with you always! Don’t just celebrate these wonderful truths yourself; however, but also share this Easter message of hope and joy with someone you know who is suffering greatly today and feels completely abandoned by God. May your Lent be one of complete surrender, your Holy Week one of humble worship, and your Easter one of overwhelming joy! Just a thought . . .

Agape!
Pastor Paul