In the Valley

I’ve celebrated Easter my whole life. It is the pivotal week in the Christian calendar. Those three dark days when evil seemed to win. And then, sunrise service on Easter Sunday, coloured eggs in a basket, Jesus arose. Love wins. Good triumphs. God is not dead.

I’ve heard the story a hundred times. I’ve told it myself. To Sunday school classes, in Bible studies, to a friend in the middle of a Vaisakhi Parade.

Sometimes it is so hard to worship God. It is so hard to follow an unfathomable God. A God who chooses who lives and dies according to no criteria that makes sense to me. A God who seems to punish the undeserving. A God who makes me so angry and so hurt because I don’t understand. I don’t understand.

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.”

Psalm 22:2

I have often taken comfort in God’s response to Job. His powerful reminder that we humans are only a speck, of how little we actually know.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth?” God asks Job. “Have you entered the storehouse of the snow, or seen the storehouses of the hail?”

God knows. He was there. He commands the morning and causes the dawn to know its place. The gates of death have been revealed to Him. (Job 38)

But sometimes, some days, that doesn’t comfort me. I don’t want the keeper of the dawn or the one who scatters the wind. I want someone to hold my hand, to let me cry, to change my story to a happier one. God feels very far away on those days.

Reading this week, of Jesus’ final days before His death, I was struck by His prayer in Gethsemane.

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

Matthew 26: 39

Jesus’ last night, His last hours before His betrayal, and He prayed to be saved. He asked God to change His course, His story.

Jesus’ prayer wasn’t answered.

Jesus experienced every facet of what it is to be human. Including that devastating silence from God. And just as the psalmist cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus cried out too, as He died on the cross. (Matthew 27:46)

Jesus didn’t end His prayer there though. His closing statement was a desire for God’s will to be fulfilled.

My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; neverthless, not as I will, but as You will.”

And the Psalmist still managed to worship God.

“Yet You are Holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

Psalm 22:3

Even Job, before God made His response, worshipped God in the midst of his suffering.

“Though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”

Job 13:15

So though we may pray for our circumstances to change, for God to save us from the path He leads us on, we also have to pray – at the same time, in the same breath – for the strength to walk that path. For the faith to know that God does lead us through the shadow of the valley of death.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

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