You are called into your supervisor’s office and are handed a pink slip. The doctor’s face tells you everything, the diagnosis is not good. Your spouse simply says to you, “We need to talk,” and you feel the pain of years of neglect causing your blood pressure to rise. We each have numerous moments from our lives that can be challenging and even traumatic for us. Often our first reaction can be, why? Why me, why now?
Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers knew the feeling well. One day they are walking together and Jesus begins to explain to his friends how He is going to suffer and be killed so that he can rise again on the third day. All sorts of red flags went up in Peter’s head and he thought to himself, this can’t be so. So Peter pulled Jesus aside from the group and said to him, “What do you mean Jesus? You can’t leave us! You can’t die like that you are God!!! “(Matthew 16:22 my paraphrase) But Jesus quickly responds to Peter, “Peter, get out of my way. Satan, get lost. You have no idea how God works.” (Matthew 16:23, The Message) Don’t be confused here; Jesus does not think Peter is actually Satan. Instead Jesus is clearly saying to Peter, what you are saying speaks directly against what God has told me to do. Imagine what Peter must have thought: “How is a person dying help anything?”, “It sounds awful, what good can come from this?”
During Holy Week we celebrate “Good” Friday, and I have had countless kids ask me, how is Jesus dying anything good? It just sounds sad. Paul, the writer of many of our New Testament books understood this challenge well. Paul was continually under persecution; he was arrested and beaten on more than one occasion, and even placed on house arrest for a period of time. But Paul says this in Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, TNIV, my emphasis) I guess that sounds nice if you are a rosy eyed optimist. But, Paul writes this as a man under persecution, saying this not out of optimism but faith, because it gave him hope, because he believed that God was at work even in the challenges of his life.
This week churches all around the world will celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. They will sing songs of Hallelujah, praise, and rejoicing. Those same churches will be filled with individuals who may celebrate the joy of Jesus’ resurrection, but wonder when they will experience new life themselves, wondering when they will get some relief from their challenges and pain. If our God could take the brutal death of His own son, and bring hope and goodness from that, then God is big enough to be at work in our life circumstances. He is able to bring hope even into the darkest and loneliest corners of our lives, and I pray that we can find reassurance in that each day.
- What challenging circumstances are you facing in your life right now?
- Have you seen God at work during those challenging circumstances? If so, how?
- Are there places in our lives we may be ignoring God’s leading us to something unexpected?
- Take a minute to read Psalm 22, a prayer of a man buried deep in the pains of life.