“Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace.”- John 1:16
As the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness, there were times when, to put it bluntly, they were simply over it. Over the wandering, over the trusting, over the assuming that God was going to come through yet again.
“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people.”- Exodus 13:21-22
God had promised it, and God was proving it, yet their humanity was not exactly thrilled to be a part of this, “just put one foot in front of the other” mentality.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”- Matthew 6:34
When the Israelites had crossed over Red Sea (you know, the time God parted the seas for His children and then put the sea back together again when Pharaoh and his people tried to follow?), it was time to camp out and rest for a bit. Moses informed the people that they were to gather a day’s portion of food, every day, no more and no less. If you know anything about the Israelites, you know what’s coming. Of course, there were some who listened. Others, in their nervousness about whether or not this manna would actually be given tomorrow, tried to store it up in their tents. Of course, Moses was angry, God wasn’t surprised, and the food itself just spoiled. The story goes on and on, same story different day. The Israelites just couldn’t quit wondering,
“Is it really the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)
Now, we could read through the story page by page and wonder how in the world the Israelites could doubt, but let us not forget that they did not have the whole book in front of them. Are we really much different? Time and time again, God has proven that He is faithful. He has showed up that He shows up in the ways He wants in the time He wants and He does what He wants- and that it’s good. But, no matter what past experience has proven; when we are in the moment, the Light shining within but not without, it is easy to question His purpose and His presence. Within the blink of an eye, we can go from trusting His heart to doubting Him altogether.
The days leading up to Jesus’s death and the horrific scene on that very day appeared to be anything but good. Good Friday?! If the cross was the end of the story, Christians as a whole should be seen as barbarians for calling the day of anyone’s death “good”.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And the stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him”.- Matthew 27:27-31
Mocked. Humiliated publicly. Wrongly accused. Stripped naked. Spit on. Bloody head to toe. You would think this would be the worst of it, but the physical and emotional turmoil is nothing compared to what happened next. Jesus had been silent up until this point, bearing the cross without any words, when suddenly, He cried out in a loud voice,
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? That is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”- Matthew 27:46
Translated: Lord, is this really you among us?
You see, up until this point, Jesus had felt and experienced the presence of God in each of these moments. He was fully man and fully God after all, and so physical pain and strife was something He did not fear. Yet being separated from God Himself- to be separated from the very Spirit within Him?
A moment later, or so it seems, Jesus yields up His Spirit and this seemingly disastrous day appears to be finished. But God.
He has a way of taking what seems like the end and turning it into a glorious beginning.
In the coming days, I am sure the disciples could relate to the Israelites as they wandered through the desert. I am positive that the hours before Jesus met them in Galilee for one last conversation on earth, they were full of thoughts and questions. They doubted. Was it really Him among them? It is sometimes hard to remember past promises when the present feels so bleak.
We do not have a pillar of clouds nor fire.
We cannot see the scars on Jesus’s wrists.
We have more.
We have His Spirit. We have the whole story, divinely written in front of us, page by page.
When it is dark, when it seems as if maybe we are making this whole thing up, we must look to His words and reach deep within and know that even a tiny flicker of light can overthrow the darkness. We must learn to be okay with a step-by-step kind of faith. There are some mysteries of God that we may never understand on this side of heaven, but the calling to live by faith and not by sight is not one of them. He has told us that this is the way to true life- trusting Him one moment and then trusting Him the next. And guess what?
He gives us grace in place of grace with every step.
In every twist and turn of this life, He promises to bring us grace to handle whatever He chooses to allow. We do not know what kind of grace we will need for tomorrow, and, praise God, we do not have to know! We must simply trust that He will bring it; and watch in amazement as He does. His hand has made all the places He sends us. What hope this brings to our weary hearts! What comfort this gives us when we are in our own garden of gethsemane, crying out for a new assignment, begging God to change the plan.
Nevertheless, not as we will, but as You will.
Thank You, Lord, that your eternal purpose for each of our lives always trumps our so-called plans.
Friends, on this Good Friday, may we gaze at the cross and be reminded that He is working all things out for His glory and our good. May we not be distracted by fleeting circumstances, situations, or trials, knowing that He IS among us and that whatever He sends is not just allowed but needed. May we not borrow tomorrow’s hypothetical sorrows for today; but instead fix our eyes on Him and what He is doing in the present. Oh, how I long to see the hand that I now trust. Beloved, truly, it is a good, good Friday.
“…and as your days, so shall your strength be.”- Deuteronomy 33:25
“A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?’- Proverbs 20:24
No matter where you sit today, His heavens are higher still.