Last Words: Day Four
“I thirst.” John 19:28
As Jesus hung on the cross on Golgotha (an Aramaic word meaning “skull”), He suffered in every way imaginable: spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and physically. It was through His sufferings that we are healed (1 Peter 2:24) by being united in relationship with God. And, it is also through His sufferings that we learn how to engage and endure our own sufferings.
Everyone goes through suffering at some point in their lives and for many there exists an ongoing element of suffering throughout life. For some it is chronic pain or illness and for others a prolonged period of estrangement from loved ones. Some suffer the pain of exile from their homeland and others deal with poverty or joblessness.
In the simple words, “I thirst,” which Jesus uttered upon the cross, He left an example of how to suffer with grace and trust.
“For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:20-21
The thirst He experienced evidenced that He was physically undone by the crucifixion. He lost so much water through the sweat and the tears and hours without food and drink that He became dehydrated. He lost so much blood that His body went into shock. Extreme thirst is a symptom of shock and dehydration. And, in all of this, He remained faithful.
Just after Jesus shared that He was thirsty, He was offered a sponge of sour wine. He then lowered His head and gave up His spirit. Earlier in the crucifixion scene (Matt 27:34), Jesus was offered the same wine and He refused it. It was common for the soldiers to give the person being crucified a wine mixture that would help deaden the pain. Jesus refused to run from any part of the suffering and taking the drugged wine would have been an escape, a way to numb the pain.
Every day, we are given opportunities to deaden our pain, to run from suffering. However, suffering and sacrificing is a part of what it means to love and share and give. As we experience sufferings in this life, we find that God’s presence and love in our lives is sufficient:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
To experience the weakness that leads to strength in the Lord, we have to be fully present in our sufferings and hardships. God leads us through sufferings so that some things can die and other things can be birthed in our lives. Is it possible that we don’t know God’s love and presence more fully in this life because we are more focused on managing our pain than seeking God in the midst of our pain? Macrina Wiederkehr put it this way: “Every time I say no to the birthing and dying that is set before me at the table of daily life, I seem to hear the echo of Jesus’ words to the woman at the well, ‘If you but knew the gift of God … ’”
In what ways are you tempted to run from suffering? How might you meet God where you are today rather than seeking to escape? Writer Dorothee Soelle shares the beauty of finding God “in the void”:
We don’t have the choice of avoiding suffering and going around all these deaths. The only choice we have is between the absurd cross of meaninglessness and the cross of Christ, the death we accept apathetically as a natural end and the death we suffer as a passion…. If in the night of despair the soul does not cease loving “in the void,” then the object of its love can rightly be called “God.”
Meet Him in the emptiness, in the thirst … it is there that He becomes real and His love becomes all that you need. When we numb the pain, we also numb our ability to feel and experience His love.
Prayer for loving “in the void”:
Father, I desire to experience your grace as sufficient rather than numbing my pain. Give me the strength to see how I run from suffering so that I might stop and therefore trust you in the void. I rejoice in how You are shaping Me into Your image for your glory. Amen.