The Unpolished Passion

How I struggled with God and the rise of COVID-19.
Around a week or two ago, Christine, my partner, messaged me about one of her church's virtual lunches. An eager friend was asking about the question of evil: If God exists, why doesn't He do anything about evil?
He wasn't the only one who was curious. I've heard this sentiment multiple times within my friend group, and I've seen several brothers and sisters curious and also desperate to know the answer. Recent discussions in my small groups have touched on topics like doubt, anxiety, uncertainty, and our increasing lack of faith. Even my church staff has constantly kept in touch with small group leaders, ensuring that we are mentally and emotionally cared for.
Then, I phoned my mom later that week, and I found myself beginning to ask the same question:
Why God? How come you won't stop this?
Each day I struggled to make sense of this event. Why couldn't this be stopped, even by a God who is omnipotent? I've spent so much of my life studying God and learning about Him and the answers to this difficult question, but once it became personal and close, my answers held no water. Each day, my sanity was slowly chipped away from constant news of the equipment shortages, the dwindling economy, the loss of life, and the uncertainty of it all. When will this madness end? Is it possible for us to return to how things were before? Will my parents be exposed to this virus, and what will I do when they succumb to its might?
The reactions of my peers are similar. Many are also frustrated over sold out toilet paper after waiting in the long, dotted lines of social distanced shopping. Several of my friends constantly post about "bending the curve" ( 😃), and some others are donating blood and making masks to help fight the shortages that we're facing. We the people are fighting for that glimmer of hope, digging with all our might just to get a glimpse of the light at the end of this long, exhausting tunnel.
Today is Good Friday. And it's interesting, because I feel that the atmosphere of today echoes the atmosphere felt 2000 years ago. It was the day that the Man of Sorrows sweated drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane. It was the day Peter vowed to follow Jesus to death, yet denied Jesus three times out of fear. It was a day of overwhelming grief for Mary, as she watched her beloved son tortured and killed. It was a day of darkness, uncertainty and shock, similar to some of our recent days.
Seeing some of the parallels between now and then, I decided to read the four accounts of the crucifixion, because I wanted to capture the emotions and atmosphere during that Good Friday. As I read through Scripture, I picked up on a few things that I hadn't noticed previously. First, at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus didn't just pray once. He prayed the same prayer, three times:
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. Yet not My will, but Yours be done."
Luke 22:44 says that Jesus was not just afraid, He was in agony. Second, Jesus needed a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, to carry His cross for him. Jesus was likely tortured to the point where He could no longer physically carry His own cross to Golgotha. The level of suffering Jesus felt prior to the cross must've been unfathomable, yet Jesus, being fully God, was still willing to submit Himself to that level of brutality for us.
And lastly, on the cross itself, Jesus cried out "My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?". Even the Son of God echoes some of the thoughts we have sometimes, where we lament and ask God why He feels so distant. You can see in all of Psalm 22, where David, another man of God, cries and pleads for God to deliver him from hardship.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest."
Yet the psalm doesn't end there, and thankfully, the story of Good Friday doesn't end at the crucifixion. The good news of Christ culminates at His resurrection, where He conquers the sin of the world that burdened Him on that cross, and He rises victorious over my sin. Good Friday is when Jesus demonstrates His divine love for His enemies. But Easter is when Jesus demonstrates His divine power over sin.
This past month, our society experienced a flavor of that despair. We feel the uncertainty rattle us to our core, and we feel our anxiety seep into our bones as we become more irate, angry, and confused. But what I realize now is that God understands these emotions, because He bore them on the cross. So this year, we have the unique opportunity to remember the Passion without all of its polish and rehearsed tradition. Instead, we grit through it, tapping into the true nature of Christ's crucifixion. It's a time for us to practice the way of Jesus, who lamented and took in the anguish, loss, and despair that the lost are feeling now.
And as we grit through, we are able to anticipate Easter not only as a day of history, but also as a message of renewal. We are in a season where Christians and non-Christians alike are both seeking renewal in the world. And as they begin searching for what that renewal may look like, we can point them to the resurrection, God's greatest gift of renewal to mankind.
Many of these thoughts are influenced by two leaders of mine: my worship director at Reality SF, and the head pastor at Reality LA.
If you'd like to learn more about Easter and would like to attend either of their Easter services, I encourage you to check out their Easter service times found below 😃:
Reality SF: 10:30 AM PST
Reality LA: 9:00 AM PST or 11:00 AM PST
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