Have you ever had trouble having faith in God’s presence? I would be surprised if anyone can say they have gone through life without doubting his presence from time to time. It is not always easy to see him in our everyday struggles. And then there are individuals, who remind us “God has a plan”. I know a young woman who works part time for a school and she has been struggling for the past year just to pay her bills and meet her expenses. So she has been eagerly waiting for tax return season. Everyone likes getting that extra check in the mail, right? Well, she did her taxes with one of those online tax agencies and paid the $49.00, only to get something in the mail less than a week later claiming that she already filed her return and the check has already been cashed.
Needless to say, this was a fraudulent tax return. She now had to take time off from work to go stand in line at the IRS, always a fun experience. She stayed and waited there for hours and finally the lady came out and said, “We’re closing for the day. You’ll have to come back tomorrow”. So she had to go through this process all over again the next day. Then there was the paperwork, and the criminal charges she had to press. Just now they are having her re-file and now she has to pay the $49.00 all over again. And over and over again, she’s been exclaiming, “Why me! Why me! Why would God allow this to happen to me? I’m a good person”.
This is what our disciples were struggling with after his crucifixion. Here Christ had been killed and in the tomb for three days and his body went missing, gone. Their friends told them that when they spoke to the “angel” he told them Jesus rose from the grave. But the disciples didn’t believe that Christ was with them. They were too caught up in the “Why me’s”. Why did Christ die? Why were they now alone? Why would God allow for Jesus to die? They were only trying to help those in need and bring people back into relationship with God. They were good people, Jesus was a good person. They were too caught up in the why me’s to even pay attention to the news their friends gave them. They couldn’t hear the hope or feel the promise of Christ’s presence amongst them. They were in too much pain; they had too much anxiety.
When Jesus showed up he scolded them for not having enough faith. But having faith when we feel unjustly harmed and are really down in the gutter is difficult for anyone to do, disciple or not. We all have read these passages from the scriptures. They appear is every Easter season. We all know that Christ was in the tomb for three days and then rose on the third to bring a renewed hope to the world. But all that hope, all that joy of the empty tomb fades into the background when we are faced with challenges in life. We want God to make everything all better, and by all better what we really mean is easy and comfortable for us. But, as I am sure we all can attest to, this just simply is not the case.
There will always be those times when we doubt God’s presence in our world; times when we doubt Christ’s salvation; times when we doubt God’s motives and ultimate plan for us. I like to say “to doubt is part of the human condition”. The young woman from this morning’s story, in her struggles with the IRS, couldn’t see that perhaps God had a plan for her in these experiences as her mother reminded her. Someday she will be able to use those experiences to help someone else or to learn just how strong and capable she really is.
When I was caring for my grandmother with dementia, I asked “Why me?” at least a dozen or more times a day. When we don’t understand what we are experiencing, we can’t see God’s grander picture and like those disciples on that first Easter morning we sometimes hide in that upper room of our fear not recognizing the work of Christ when we see it. We experience something hard and the easiest thing for any of us to do is to yearn for easier times whether those times were two months ago, two years ago, or two decades ago. We want things to go back to the way they were when we were comfortable and everything seemed stable and predictable.
The disciples wanted everything to go back to the way it was before Jesus was arrested. When Christ was alive they understood who they were and what they were to do because they had someone to direct them. But now all of a sudden they had to direct themselves. They were alone with no one to consult with and fearful that others were searching for them to put them to the same end as they did Jesus. They didn’t know what they were to do with their lives now that the man they believed to be the Messiah was dead and his body was missing.
Jesus came back to show the world that there is hope in those times of great stress, there is hope in times of great change. So when life changes and what was once easy and predictable no longer is, we are being asked to have faith in God. Even when we can’t see God or feel Christ’s presence or feel as if our prayers haven’t been answered and we can’t see God’s path and purpose for us, we need to trust. We need to trust that, though we don’t feel his presence, which if we just hang in there and keep going forward God will reveal his purpose to us at some point. We need to fight off those why me’s of life and keep living into the message of Christ with each step and to keep trying in life no matter how hard it might get. We can’t give up as the disciples had originally done. We all have the teachings of Jesus; we all have what it takes to continue forward in our work. We might need some time to regroup and rethink our path but we have what it takes to do Christ’s work and to feel God’s presence once more the way we did when life was simpler and more predictable. So remember the words of our scriptures from this morning, “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Remember we are all witnesses of Christ’s holiness and resurrection. We are the ones challenged to walk forward to proclaim his name through our outreach and actions. We are the ones being reminded that just because life changes that doesn’t mean that God is not present or that our prayers have not been heard. It just means that there are challenges that we face and God is going to use those experiences to shape who we are. Christ is still with us even today directing us just as he was with the disciples. Our challenge is to believe in the power of his resurrection and the hope thus afforded to all of our lives. And if life has left you wondering, why me and where is God, then just hang in there and God will make sense of your life in his time.