Tag Archives: suffering

Good Friday

I was taught that when Jesus died on the cross, that somehow he took the sin of the world upon himself and because God is righteous, and cannot stand to be near to sin, God turned God’s back of Jesus when Jesus cried out while hanging on the cross, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?”


This teaching became something I struggled with when a friend of mine told me that while reading a children’s book to his daughter it painting the same picture as above, only his daughter asked why God would turn God’s back on God’s Son. Was it because God didn’t love God’s Son? Was God angry at Jesus? Why would God turn away?

Sometimes it takes the curiosity and insight of a child who is not intimidated to ask the hard questions to reveal how destructive our own thinking can be.

How one understands Good Friday deeply shapes how one pictures God – for better or for worse.

Good Friday has become an important day for me, and the words of Jesus on the cross, “My God my God, why have you forsaken me?” have been deeply comforting in my own Fridays. It is comforting because I no longer interpret this to mean that God’s back was turned and Jesus suffered alone. Think about it, what kind of picture does this paint of God?

Does God leave us when we endure our own Fridays? Does God turn God’s back every time I mess up? What about times I mess up a little? How big does my mess up need to be? If God turned God’s back on Jesus, God’s Son, how can I trust that God will be with me when I endure a crisis of my own?

If I understand Good Friday to be the day God turned God’s back on Jesus, and God did this because God can’t be close to sin, that means God’s back is turned toward me a lot of the time. This will deeply form one’s psyche and will affect the way one lives in very destructive ways!

So, what is meant when Jesus cries out on the cross? First, it has helped me to understand that Jesus was echoing a lament found in the Psalms. Psalms 22v1-2 say, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.”

Have you ever felt this way?

This is a powerful lament filled with emotion that echo my words every time I go through a Friday of my own. Each of us has gone through our own Friday, and many of us have gone through several. In our Fridays, we endure loss, grief, pain, confusion, etc. If we are honest we all have asked two questions: “Why is this happening?” and “Where are you in the midst of this God?” This, I think, is the very heart of the Psalmists lament.

So, when Jesus cries out on the cross, “My God my God why have you forsaken me”, he is not giving a statement, but expressing a very human emotion, “God, where are you?”

Have you felt alone? Have you felt like God has rejected you, or turned away from you? Have you ever felt lost because you just didn’t understand why something was happening?

Good Friday is powerful because it reflects that Jesus felt the same way you and I do when we go through a difficult season in our lives. Jesus understands our pain, suffering, confusion, and loneliness that each of us has felt and some of us are feeling right now.

As we know though, the story doesn’t end there. Somehow, in a very mysterious way, God was working in the midst of Good Friday to bring about reconciliation. In the midst of death, God worked to bring about new life.

This is the Christian Hope. The Christian Hope then, is not that we have all the answers, or that we never falter in our faith or never doubt that God is present. The Christian Hope is that even when we feel alone, confused, lost or frustrated that somehow, in someway, God is working in the middle of all this to bring about new life.

May you experience this Hope in new and fresh ways this Good Friday.


How Holy Week reflects our individual stories

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday which began Holy Week. For anyone unfamiliar with Palm Sunday, it is the day when Christians celebrate the time Jesus entered into Jerusalem and people shouted,

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!
Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!”


Now, what’s going on here? A little context I think has helped me.

If your living during this time, you are shaped by the Hebrew Scriptures and the narratives found there. Primarily though, you are shaped by two major narratives; that of exodus and that of exile.

Exodus is familiar to most people, even those not raised in a religious tradition. According to the narrative, God, through Moses (i.e. Christian Bale:) brought about salvation (read liberation) and set the Israelites free from Egyptian oppression.

Exile, is less familiar to most people, but it is no less important and may actually be much more important to the Jewish mind. In 587 BCE, the Babylonian Empire, under the reign of Kind Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Judah, destroyed the temple, and took thousands of the most influential leaders and most of the young people and brought them back to Babylon to assimilate them into their culture. This exile lasted for about 50 years until the Persian King Cyrus the Great conquered the Babylonian’s in 539 BCE and allowed those in exile to go free. It was actually during this time that much of the Hebrew Scriptures were written. This was because the Jewish people were forced to wrestle with who they were and were God was in the midst of this. They had been conquered, their sacrificial religious system destroyed with the temple, and how they understood God was through God’s presence in the temple. Now they had to think about where they came from, who was God, how did God bring about salvation before, and how the heck did they wind of in Babylon?

In both of these narratives, God brought about salvation through a person who set the Jewish people free from oppression.

So, in the Palm Sunday narrative we see the first century Jews expecting God to bring about salvation in the same way that God had in the past, by sending a Messiah/Savior who would bring about salvation by overthrowing the Romans and establishing an earthly kingdom…only this didn’t happen.

Several days later, what Christians now call Maundy Thursday, one of Jesus’ closest friends betrayed Jesus and on Good Friday Jesus was crucified. Imagine you were one of the disciples, you have left all family and friends to follow this Jewish Rabbi for the last year, and you wholeheartedly believed that this Rabbi was the coming Messiah/Savior who would bring about salvation. In other words, Jesus was the warrior king who would overthrow the Romans!…only something went terribly wrong.

Within a matter of several days, your whole world was shaken, and you were left confused, frustrated, uncertain, and dumbfounded. You have given up everything. You deeply believed that Jesus was the Savior and now he was just killed. Your whole life was headed in one direction, and then all of a sudden the ground was ripped out from under you and you didn’t know where God was or why this was happening.

Have you ever felt like this?

Have you ever asked, “Why is this happening?”

Have you ever asked, “Where are you in the midst of this God?”

You’re not alone!

Holy Week reflects the human drama. In other words, each of us can share in this week, because I have never met anyone who didn’t go through a Friday of their own. Everyone one of us has felt lost, betrayed, hurt, wounded, alone, frustrated, uncertain, confused at some point in our life. If you are human and your heart is still beating, you have endured a hardship, a time of grief or suffering of some sort. You have experienced a crisis or loss, you have loss a job, a relationship, someone has passed away, someone close to you has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness, you have moved, someone has spoken something to you or about you that has wounded or hurt you, you have tried to obtain something – a job, a school, a grade, or even pregnancy, and it didn’t happen…we all share in this story because Holy Week reflects each of our stories.

Two simple things I have learned from going through seasons like this in my life and seeing others go through them as well. They are very practical, but I think very powerful.

1. Admit it

To admit that your struggling is not easy, but it is the first step to healing. Many of us, myself included, struggle with this because it feels like admitting that we are weak. Also, among many Christians, there can be a sort of pressure to always seem like we  have it all together and to always be “more than conquerors.” The problem is, we don’t live our entire lives in Easter…we spend our lives journeying from Palm Sunday – where everything seems to be going great, through Good Friday – where everything comes crashing down, to Easter – where God works to bring about new life among the ashes.

By admitting it, we are not admitting we are less human, less mature, or less spiritual. We all have and will endure seasons of hardship, just because you are struggling doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or aren’t good enough or strong enough. When we admit it and openly walk through difficult times, our souls expand. Have you ever met someone who seems like they were a deeply centered person? Chances are they walked through a very difficult Friday and resisted the temptation to try to skirt around it or try to pretend it’s not there. I think the key here is realizing it is a season of your life and it doesn’t define who you are.

2. Surround yourself in community.

Friends matter. Relationships matter. As much as we try to do things on our own, when we experience Fridays (i.e. times of crisis) in our lives, we often need to rely on others. This has been true in a number of different seasons of my life. As much as I would like to always have faith, hope, perseverance, and strength, I don’t. I doubt. I don’t always have hope. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed and want to give up.  We need those around us to have faith for us when our faith falters, to have hope when we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, to continue to walk alongside us and be our strength when we feel like giving up and surrendering.

Holy Week is a reflection of each one of our stories. By reflecting upon this we can  be encouraged to know that we are not alone!

Oh…and the most powerful part about this is that God is working amidst our Fridays (loss) to bring about Easter (new life)!

The book of Job & liminal space

What does the book of Job have to teach us about liminal spaces? – A lot!

My last post was an honest, raw confession of where I am at personally.

Several people have contacted me about feeling like they are in a liminal space of their own. I think there are many reasons for being in a space like this (some of it is the time of life, some of it is part of the spiritual journey, but I also think much of it is the shift in consciousness), but there are several things that stand out to me which I would like to explore in the future (stay tuned!), but for now I wanted to share a few thoughts about the book of Job.


Last year (about this time actually) I took a seminary class that was focused entirely on Job. Job is a complex book that has become my favorite book in the Hebrew Bible.

That being said one can read Job and leave frustrated and confused – Every time I read it I feel this way, yet for some reason I still find comfort in it (maybe because I find comfort in mystery and uncertainty and not in shallow, pat answers?)

One can read Job and conclude the following:

God caused Job’s pain – if not directly than indirectly by allowing “the accuser” (not the same person as the biblical character Satan which was developed over time and only really become a demonic fallen angel during the inter-testament periods) to inflict suffering. The picture of a heavenly wager is an ancient form of literary genre and should not be read literally for by doing so it paints a pretty horrible picture of God!

It can seem as if God bullies Job into surrendering –  one can walk away with the idea that we shouldn’t question. (Actually I think the opposite is true!)

Because Job is blessed ten-fold in the end all the suffering was worth it.  -Really?  ok if I’m honest that just sucks!

In class we discussed the different ways Job can be interpreted and what kind of story it actually is – is it an actual historical story? Is it a story taken from other cultures who had their own Job story? Is it a sort of fable or play?

However one interprets the book of Job, I was left with more questions than answers which I think is the point of the story. One thing that did stand out was the following;

Job was wrestling through a liminal space, i.e. how does he move forward when he was raised and taught to believe one thing, but has experienced something different?

Ever been there?

I have, many times and often it is a difficult and unclear journey because you don’t have the answers. All you can do is confess, “this old way of thinking, being, or seeing doesn’t work for me anymore” – often these experiences come in the form of pain, heartache, loss, grief, change, or transition.

Job was raised to think that everyone who followed God would be blessed, and those who were cursed clearly did not (retribution principle). This made the world black and white and easy to understand. You could look at someone and if they were poor or suffering it was because they had done something wrong, i.e. it was there own fault.

Now the story makes it very clear that Job was a good man who had done nothing wrong and yet was experiencing some tremendous suffering. Job defends himself while his three friends continue to argue that he must have done something wrong because he was going through such suffering.

Ever feel like people just don’t seem to understand why you can’t believe, see, or think the way they do?


Sometimes I feel helpless because I just don’t have the words to articulate why exactly I do not see things the same way.

His friends were stuck in the old way of thinking, but Job’s pain, suffering,  and grief had given him an experience where this old way of thinking just didn’t work – the answers he was taught and the answers those around him were giving just weren’t good enough anymore.

Ever feel like people give you answers to questions for a world that no longer exists? Answers that seem to see things as clearly black and white, only your experience has opened your eyes to see the world in so many different colors?

I think Job can relate to this – I find comfort in this.

As I am writing this I realize that I find comfort in mystery, uncertainty, and in the grey – this seems to be where I find God. I think this is because it is not shallow. I was taught to have all the answers, and then to present them (argue) to others. This causes one to seem superior and often arrogant because they always have all the answers and others need to see the world the way they do.

Like Job, the old way of seeing the world as black and white no longer works for me, and yet I struggle at times to find the words to articulate and explain why.

Next post I plant to share many personal examples and experiences that have lead me through liminal spaces.