Suffering = Fear or Hope?
The last week or so, we’ve been looking at Jurgen Moltmann’s Jesus Christ For Today’s World and looking specifically at “pictures” of Jesus. Today’s picture is found in the phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Psalm 22:1 NIV) What exactly does this mean? For years, scholars have debated the meaning of what Jesus has to say. Was it the sin of mankind? Was it the torment and pain of the cross? Was it something else?
Could it be that Jesus voiced those words from the cross, knowing of the impending separation from the Father? Moltmann maintains, “All human anxiety and fear is fundamentally – which means from birth onwards – fear of separation.” However, circumstances that cause anxiety can also be seen as opportunities for hope – hope for victory, for peace, for deliverance. Again, I refer to Moltmann. “If we believe in Christ, fear does not isolate us from God. On the contrary, it leads us deeper into community with him… In our anxiety we participate in Christ’s anxiety; for in his suffering Christ went through the very fears and anxieties which men and women encounter too.”
Too often, when trouble comes our way, we’re tempted to turn our focus inward. We convince ourselves no one knows our pain, grief, or suffering. We cry out to God, “Why me? How could you? It’s just not fair?” Although we know the Word says, God/Jesus would “never leave us or forsake us,” (Heb 13:5; Deut 31:6), there are times we feel alone. And anxiety and fear causes us to become immobile. We get stuck.
This, you may realize, is a picture that has to do with perspective. Depending on which angle you view the picture from, you see fear or you see hope. You see torment, suffering, and despair. Or you see an opportunity to grow, a place of victory, and God’s perfect love.
I would offer (as Moltmann does) that Christ chose the latter. Although He knew the cross was not easy, He perceived the final outcome. Let me encourage you to see conflict as Christ did.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:8-11 NIV)