This Easter season I have been particularly struck by Jesus’ words on the cross ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me?’ (Matt 27:46). It was a verse that always used to trouble me. Was this Jesus having a moment of doubt? Had God really abandoned him? What did it mean? Then one day I noticed a helpful little footnote reading simply ‘Psalm 22:1′. When I realised what Jesus was quoting it really helped me understand what He was saying, and why it was OK for Jesus and for us to talk to God like that.
You see Psalm 22 is a Psalm of Lament, in fact over 1/3 of the Psalms are laments. Why is that important? Because the existence of Lament shows that God has given us permission to be totally honest and authentic with him, even when our feelings are way off the chart and we are angry at the world and Him.
But this is easier said than done. Sometimes our teachers in the faith have given us the impression we should be happy all the time; that feeling bad, down, abandonded or defeated are feelings to be suppressed and controlled rather than offered to, and directed at, God. There’s a good reason we put on a ‘face’ before others. It’s because the truth is grubby, imperfect and broken. We are grubby, imperfect and broken. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden their first response before each other and God was to hide and cover-up. Being of Adam’s line it seems the problem may be hereditary.
I now love Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 22, the Biblical practice of Lament includes statements of raw emotion. If you doubt that just see Psalm 137:9 and read as the Psalmist declares “Happy the man who shall seize and smash your little ones against the rock”. That uncomfortable verse is in the Bible and we need to face up to it! It doesn’t mean that God endorses the Psalmists plea, just that He accepts how he feels. Crucially Lament includes declarations of trust in God, read Psalm 22:9-10 ”Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. ” Laments have a rhythm, they swing from complaint to praise and generally end in statements of trust and hope in God for the future. That’s why they are healthy, they don’t leave us where we start out. God can take the mixed up mess inside us and turn it to something good.
Jesus lived and died in order that we should be fully reunited with God, nothing can now stand in the way of our relationship with him as everything that could block the path was defeated on the cross. And He wants that relationship to be characterised by authenticity, openness and honesty before Him. We often talk about the need for people (and especially brands) to be totally authentic on social media. Why? Because no-one wants to have relationship with someone who is a fake. Deep down we wish we could be ‘real’ before other people and have them be ‘real’ before us. We are made in God’s image, is it any wonder He wants the same?
God is in the business of moving us from despair to hope, from hiding to authenticity. That is the message of Easter. Jesus’ agonising death was followed by his glorious resurection. Whatever is dead or dying in you can be offered to God and he will bring that same resurrection power to bear.
And it doesn’t stop there. God has commissioned us to be a people who call others into this authentic, forgiven relationship with the creator of the world. This is a great privilege. This Easter may we your people know we are forgiven and accepted ‘warts n’ all’. Help us to no longer live in hiding but to live authentic lives before you and the world. Inspire us by your spirit to take this Good News to a broken world weighed down by shame, despair and insecurity. May your Kingdom come. Amen.
by Kevin Bennett (@kevinleebennett) – Director of New Media for Premier Christian Media.
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