Day 39 – Endurance
“… that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
Friday … the most horrific day in human history as God in human flesh was brutally crucified. Yet, this Friday has been called good. Good … a word that is often flippantly thrown around to modify any number of things. And yet, that Friday was good. It is was good in the most true, pure, solid, holy way possible.
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
His love for us displayed perfectly. And at the same time, this day was devastating for those first followers of Jesus. They were disoriented and displaced in the depths of wilderness. Confusion, doubt, despair, loss, and fear all mixed together. As we refuse to run from the suffering, we find ourselves in a waiting space … a liminal reality in which is can be difficult to know if it is day or night. The invitation in the desert season is trust which leads us to stay in that liminal space. This is what Paul refers to as “endurance” in 1 Corinthians 10. As we wait, we remain present and stay open to the work of God.
While the questions may be fast and fierce, we wait with God in trust … knowing that He is at work when we can’t see it. Even though they were told that this would happen, the disciples couldn’t piece it together. It was too much. It couldn’t fit into any of their categories. There was nothing about love, peace, and hope that seemed to connect with their Rabbi and Lord hanging on a cross. While we can see the whole picture in retrospect, it wasn’t so clear in the throes of such suffering. And so it is with us in our wilderness. Because we have the cross and resurrection as the center of faith, we can borrow from this paradigm to fuel our trust. Death to life (cross to resurrection) is the pattern. It is how God works.
Of course, we think: can’t there be an easier way? This was, of course, Jesus’ question in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before. (Luke 22:42) Anne Lamott suggests: “Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness, and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.” Staying in the hurt, confusion, and pain allows the space for a shaping … a transformation. As we stay in the pain that our crosses produce, we are able to see the grace and provision of God.
When Jesus spoke with Nicodemus in John 3, He said something that draws upon the forty years in the wilderness: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (vs. 14–15) While it might have been a bit opaque in the moment, Jesus was clearly connecting the bronze serpents of Numbers 21 to the cross. What was happening in Numbers?
From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (vs. 4–9)
Grace in the wilderness. Provision. And it required a trusting look – what Jesus calls belief in John 3. Can you believe that God is at work in your worst moments? Can you trust that what looks like the worst thing imaginable will soon be called good? Can you trust? Death always leads to resurrection. Always. Every time. Without exception.
In Christ, Sunday is always two days away. We experience losses (deaths) in this life that God uses to transform us in deeper and deeper experiences of His love. And, when we experience our ultimate death, God uses that to transform us as well. This is why the Apostle Paul can say that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8) When we settle into that reality, we are free. We are free to experience the pattern of death to life over and over again. And so, even in the pain and uncertainty, a little smile may emerge because of the knowledge that God is doing what He does.
The gospel writer John, who was also one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, referred to Himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. (John 13; John 18; John 19; John 21) Certainly, Jesus loved all the disciples, but John’s identity as the beloved had been shaped so deeply that this is how he saw Himself. It is significant to note that when all the other disciples scattered as Jesus was arrested, tried, and taken to the cross, John endured … He stayed … He remained. He stayed in the pain and He experienced the love of Jesus in more profound ways than anyone else. His first New Testament letter is rooted in discussing the love of God. He wrote the statement: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) He is love, and this is our trust in the wilderness.
It is His love that transform a disastrous Friday into a good one. Will you look at the cross and let it encourage you to endure? He is at work even as our world falls apart.
Question for reflection: how is God stirring your heart? What is He inviting on this Good Friday?
Prayer: Lord, as I look at the cross, I trust that just as the serpents in the wilderness were transformed into a healing agent, You take it all and transform it into healing and life. I look to the cross and believe. I know that in Him is life. Amen.