The entirety of the Christian experience hurtles toward this week. And I want to write today to those who feel like you’re missing it.
Oh, this Easter Sunday, you’ll put a little extra poof in your hair, wear your Sunday best and smile at everyone you see – because if you’re not smiling on Easter they might revoke your credentials.
All that talk about a stone being rolled away? It doesn’t seem to soften the hard places in your life. Maybe you’re wrestling with the intersection where Jeremiah 29:11 meets John 16:33 – where the assurance of God’s good plan for you gets all tangled up by His assurance you will have trouble in this life. So while all of Christendom seems swept up in celebration, you’re asking hard questions.
You’re in good company. A carpenter’s son once asked a hard question while hanging from a cross. After being turned on by a friend and turned on by the people, He endured hours of agony and wondered why God turned on Him too.
“My God, my God why have You forsaken Me?”
Even Jesus asked why. And the only blameless person to ever walk the earth didn’t hurl a shred of entitlement toward heaven. He didn’t ask “Why Me?” He asked “Why God?” It’s the thornier question of the two.
Are you there? Are you wondering what kind of divine plan could possibly have included abuse, or abandonment, or someone who distorted your words to suit their deception? You are not alone. Jesus checked those boxes, too.
Maybe your situation lacks that level of gravitas. You’re just tired. Or skeptical. Or your faith got stale. You’re secretly dreading Easter because people all around will be praising while you’re stuck in an existential crisis of faith. Is God there? Is there a God? Is He even good? If He has the power to act, why doesn’t He? Why didn’t He? And have I ruined my chances with Him at the cosmic prayer ATM now that I’ve uttered these questions?
I think He’s big enough to take it.
Here’s a really beautiful thing that jumped off the pages of scripture for me this week:
We don’t have to be wearing our best-dressed faith for Jesus to enter our hard places.
There’s a dad in Mark 9 whose honesty proves it. By way of quick background, this is a dad who has watched helplessly while a violent spirit has rendered his son mute, convulsive and out of control. He’s seen his kid cast into fire and water. He has tended to the agony of burn wounds. He’s known the terror of his boy’s gasps for breath. He has watched mommas pull their children close as they pass by his unsafe, unpredictable, unsightly son. He watches his kid constantly. And there he is in Mark 9, standing toe to toe with the Savior of the world, saying, “If you can do anything, have compassion and help us.”
If you can do anything.
Some of you are feeling that dad. Something that’s fearful or painful or impossible has galvanized every ounce of your focus. It wakes you up at night. It consumes your thoughts during the day. I’ve been there. I’ve actually said these words out loud: “God, I know you fix things. But this situation is so broken that you’re going to have to part the Red Sea while You send manna from heaven while You rub Your tummy and pat Your head.” I think He probably laughs at me sometimes.
But the dad in Mark 9? He’s not laughing. I sense straight desperation in his voice as he realizes Jesus could walk out of his life as quickly as he walked in. Through tears, he blurts, “I believe; help my unbelief.”
Are there more honest words in all of Scripture? Is there a better example of Jesus healing apart from our imperfect faith? Is there any more clear a reminder that He’s kind and good and meets our shaky belief by saying, “I’ve got this. I’ve got you.” If we saw things perfectly it wouldn’t be called faith. He knows how how painful this place is.
He wept when His friend Lazarus died and He wept when your dreams did, too.
I don’t think it’s an accident that on the day I read Mark 9, my reading plan sent me to Joshua 23. Joshua, described as “old and well advanced in years,” knew what scripture’s redundancy tells us: His time was short. He assembled Israel’s leaders, knowing that as they lived the people would live. And the heartbeat of his charge to them was this word: Cling.
“Cling to the Lord your God.” Another translation says, “Hold tight.” Clinging to Him when life is hard must be one of the sweetest sacrifices we can offer.
When your questions fray your faith, cling.
When you’re on the floor, picking up pieces of your life, cling.
When you’re shaking your fist with one hand, hold tight with the other. And cling.
I’ll land the plane. One of my favorite accessories was handmade by my friend Tracy. A few years back, she artfully knitted an array of beautiful scarves, and then she took the scraps and clips and cuttings and made one more. Mine. It’s where 1970s macramé meets fringy bright fabrics and mismatched textures. It’s flashy and fun and I get more compliments on it than any scarf I own.
And it’s made of scraps.
Jesus does that too. He’ll take all these scraps – these bits and pieces and fragments of life that fell to the floor – and He’ll fashion them into something that’s authentic and attractive and real. He can take this thing that robbed you and that thing that robbed you and weave it into something that robes you. All you have to do is the only thing you have the strength to do. Cling.
Jesus is clingable, you know. He rode into his birth place the same way he rode into His death place – on a donkey. He’s humble. He’ll help you sort things out. He didn’t come to conquer an empire. He came to conquer your heart.
Your faith might feel shaky this Easter. But Jesus would rather you limp through the door and blurt out a half-baked statement of faith than keep Him at arm’s length. And He knows a thing – or two – about arm’s length.
If you’re local, consider yourself invited to sit with me at Grace Community Church this Sunday. Seriously. I’ll be the one with the extra poof in my hair. Private message me or contact me, and we’ll go.
Just be forewarned. I might ask you to fan me with your church bulletin. It’s going to be 89 degrees in the Phoenix area Sunday and I’m thinking about wearing that kitchen-sink scarf. To remind me to cling to Him like it clings to my neck. To remind me that all the scraps of my life that have fallen to the floor tell a beautiful story.
And maybe to remind you, too.