“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).” – Luke 15:34
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” – Philippians 2:8
Paul’s letter to the church of Philippi was written in a time of persecution and incarceration. It was not the first time the apostle was in prison for the sake of the Gospel, but he knew this situation was part of his discipleship journey. Instead of lamenting his condition, he overflows with joy as he is not thinking about himself but pleading for unity, joy, and reconciliation in that community. I can picture a warm smile on Paul’s face as if he knew that this letter was to reach beyond walls, chains, and time.
Christians have struggled for centuries, Paul’s joyful letter did not exempt him from that, and we are not exempt either. While we seek to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” often, this is not easy. There is exhaustion, a global pandemic, political polarization, war, doctrinal differences, racism, and the list continues.
We are broken people; we are hurting. We all have bright and dark days. Taking joy in the Lord doesn’t mean having a toxic theology in which you hide your sorrow and are happy all the time. Can I be faithful when I have questions? While overwhelmed with grief? Can times of darkness and despair be overcome? What do I do when a harsh medical diagnosis takes my cool away? What do I do when all I can ask is why?
I may not have all the answers, but I do know the one I am referring to; I know “my God.” The psalm Jesus recites by heart when he is at the lowest point of suffering moves from supplication to praise directed to the one he knew intimately.
Jesus entered the darkness so we could walk in the light. In dark moments, when we are at the end of the rope, we can rely on God, just like Jesus did at the cross. We can join Jesus’s cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” not only as a cry of lament but one of hope and comfort.
God of Love, thank you for listening to our questions, thank you for your presence in the darkest moments. We pray for humble hearts and transformed minds so that we may think the thoughts that You would have us think, so that we may be a channel of your love to others, instead of trying to run the world in our terms. Thank you for your Son and his example of faithfulness in the darkest times. Amen.
Saul Gastelum is the associate pastor at Hollands UMC