Would we really know God as Father, as Friend, as good, as faithful, if we had never known abandonment, rejection, fear, the end of the road, the edge of the cliff, the sealed-up grave?
I’m kind of reluctant to admit this, but most times God speaks to me at church more with the lyrics of the worship songs than with the sermon. Two songs in the last month have been light to me, O Praise the Name1, and Goodness of God2.
Singing O Praise the Name Sunday, I was arrested by these lyrics:
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone
I suddenly realized, or I guess it really sank in, that Jesus’ followers didn’t know he was going to rise from the dead. They didn’t know. Jesus’ dead body was drenched in tears.
We are settled into the comfy assurance of the resurrection. Even people who aren’t Christians know Jesus rose from the dead. He is famous for it. And that is good, but also bad. See, knowing Jesus rose from the dead is like the biggest spoiler ever in the history of the world. But they didn’t know.
Maybe it is necessary for us to experience death and grief and utter despair in order to fully experience resurrection, new life, joy, amazing grace. Not arrogant assumption; not ho-hum presumption. That’s where the second song comes in.
You have led me through the fire
In the darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a Father
I’ve known You as a Friend
And I have lived in the goodness of God
… And all my life You have been faithful
And all my life You have been so, so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh, I will sing of the goodness of God
“All my life you have been faithful.” That lyric has been vibrating through me like a bell. Because I never fully realized until lately just how faithful He has been in my life. I really don’t remember much of my childhood. I am sure that I deliberately forgot it, tried to not even experience it as it happened. But God has been healing me and He is getting down to the core pain. I am realizing that I endured decades of abuse, mostly emotional. But God was always there. All my life he has been faithful.
Amazing grace. Resurrection joy – His but also our own and those we love and pray for. Think of the joy and wonder and the testimony we would miss – the witness we would not have – if there was no suffering, no grief and despair, no death. Death of hopes and dreams, death of relationships, physical pain and struggle. Would we really know God as Father, as Friend, as good, as faithful, if we had never known abandonment, rejection, fear, the end of the road, the edge of the cliff, the sealed-up grave?
Jesus had to experience death in order to set us free. Maybe we have to experience a kind of death in order to have the solid-rock faith, the knowing God’s faithfulness, the hope and confidence that we can bring to others. Maybe we need to be drenched in tears so that we can say, with every breath that we are able, all my life He has been faithful. All my life He has been so, so good.
“God comforts us so that we can comfort others. God grants us mercy so that we can be merciful to others. God stands whole-heartedly with us in our suffering so that we will stand whole-heartedly with others who are suffering. God never leaves us alone in our suffering so that we won’t leave others alone in theirs.” — Dave Zuleger3
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3–5
For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Revelation 7:17
1O Praise the Name. Songwriters: Martin W. Sampson / Benjamin William Hastings / Dean Ussher
2Goodness of God. Songwriters: Jason Ingram / Ed Cash / Brian Mark Johnson / Jenn Louise Johnson / Ben David Fielding
3God Brings Us Suffering for Others’ Sake https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-brings-us-suffering-for-others-sake
Image in the Public Domain
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