At our last Lenten Supper as we discussed Christ’s final words on the cross, one of the participants mentioned that when Christ said “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, that this showed Jesus’ humanity and suffering. I found that this stuck with me as it is something I have spent years pondering myself. Christ struggled in his last hours appealing to God in prayer in the garden before hand and from the cross feeling the full affects of abandonment and humiliation. He probably struggled to connect with God, in a way he had never before experienced, even when he was tempted in the desert for 40 days.
Nothing could have prepared Christ for the pain and suffering he endured on the cross. Yet, as abandoned as he felt, as hard of a time he had connecting with God in those moments, he still turned to God. In his pain and loneliness, he looked towards God to give him strength to endure. His faith and commitment to God never wavered for a moment. He exhibited a faith that many of us struggle to maintain. It is hard to have faith when life is difficult, when everything seems to be going wrong, when illness sets in, and when we experience loss that tears into the fabric of who we are. Yet, we are called to remain faithful. We are called to look upon the image of Christ on that Cross as an example of the life being offered to us even in the darkest of moments in life.
I knew a lady, who happened to be my reading teacher in elementary school, and a church elder when I was a child. She truly took to heart the life offered in Christ and the comfort that faith was able to afford her even in the most trying of times in her life. She lost her husband suddenly when she had three little children. She later would remarry and had many years of happy marriage. But she would suddenly lose her daughter in her first year of college to a horrible car accident. She would lose her second husband and her step son. Yet she was one of the most positive women I had ever known. She attended church every Sunday and she truly believed in God and the power of prayer. She didn’t give up in the face of extreme adversity. And I am sure she wondered more than once “Where is God”. I am sure she had every opportunity to wash her hands of faith in God.
But she didn’t. She didn’t give in to the pain and struggles. Instead, she looked towards faith and her faith community for support and comfort. She looked towards the image of Christ upon that Cross and it gave her strength when she was weak. It provided her with a new life when life had beaten her down. And this is the promise for us.
In the time of Moses, he was leading a people who had lived for generations as slaves. Then they got freedom and it was easy to have faith in God. But then life got very hard for them as they wandered through the desert. They struggled to have faith when they didn’t have enough to eat and drink, and when poisonous snakes were attacking their camps. Each time they would complain, not to God but to Moses, because in their hardship they didn’t know where to turn. They wondered where God was in their suffering and struggles and whether he would deliver them or kill them. Each time this occurred God would perform miracles to help inspire faith amidst life’s chaos.
Through Moses, God had lifted up a symbol of hope for a people in need. In the same way, Christ is our symbol of hope for those challenging times in our lives, those times when we have doubts, questions, anger, and grief. That cross is a reminder to us that we will not always feel alone in our struggles because as we struggle God works to remind us that he is our source of comfort and strength. It is up to us to make the decision to look to God in our prayers when we would otherwise give up and turn away in anger.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there are two ways in which I could respond to my situation – either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course”. Christ showed us in his life what it truly means to have faith. Having faith means to turn to God even in those moments when life is the most challenging. With each moment, with each challenge, with each experience, we have the choice to either look towards God in trust, in prayer, and in search of his light or we could choose to give up on him and to turn to other things to find our comfort in life, things that do not bring life but often bring on more heartache and distance between us and others. In John we are told, “But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God”.
It is our job to continually look towards God trusting that his light is wrapping around us to comfort us when needed and to lead through our challenges and into a time of joy. When we look to God we find true compassion and love that cannot be filled by objects or other people. When we trust in God, we learn the true meaning and depth of God’s love for us. So work to turn away from human vices and towards the only person who can understand our pain and our struggles and still offer us the love we need to find happiness. Let us work to place all that we are in God today and every day.
 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 20th century preacher and civil rights leader.
 John 3: 21, RSV.
(Based on Numbers 21: 4-9 and John 3: 14-21)