Joy in a Time of Loss
It is really easy to grow discouraged during times of great loss. When things around us look terrible, our greatest hopes lay before us in ruins or awful things have occurred, it is tempting to despair. We may feel like giving up. We assess the situation around us with our limited vision and see no hope of redeeming the darkness, so why we think why even try? Thankfully, this is one attribute of man that we do not get from God. He is never so limited in His outlook. There is always hope with God. The fact we can’t see the hope doesn’t mean it is not there.
God’s plans of salvation are not set by our expectations.
God often does His best work when all hope is lost. This is why we are told by God that we should walk by our faith in God and not by our sight. Faith compels us onward when our emotions scream at us to just give it up and admit we are defeated. Each step in hopeful obedience is another seed planted for harvest time.
Trusting in God despite what we see around us sets the stage for great rejoicing.
The original disciples gave up everything they had to follow Jesus. They believed that He was the Messiah sent to deliver them from Rome. They thought they were chosen to do great things in God’s Kingdom and often argued about who would be the greatest among them. They walked, ate, rested and fellowshipped with Jesus for 3 years time. By the time Palm Sunday comes around, their hopes for their own lives and the Nation of Israel were soaring. “Hosanna to the Son of David”, they cried out with the roaring crowds. Save us now becomes almost a command from them to Jesus as He enters Jerusalem triumphantly. He was on a donkey when He should have been on a great warhorse, but everyone knew the Messiah would be a mighty warrior King who would destroy their enemies and give them great riches. After three years, the time had come for Jesus to sit on David’s Throne!
Within less than a week, the same disciples watch as their hopes, dreams, and plans are gruesomely murdered on a cross. A crucified, mocked and spat upon Messiah was not in their plans at all. “All is lost”, they surely think. Their judgment, reason, and intellect told them with absolute certainty that their dreams are shattered. It is over.
The worst possible thing that could have happened just did. There was nothing to be done to change it. Their Messiah had failed them and left them in misery. Everything they gave up was for nothing. Even worse, Rome may not be satisfied with just killing Jesus. When the Romans put down the rebellion of Spartacus, they crucified all of his followers too. It is estimated that 60,000 crosses lined the roads of Rome during this time period.
Fear, disappointment, loss and possibly even anger had to be tearing these men and women apart in the days following Jesus’ death.
When the Risen Jesus meets two of His disciples on the Road to Emmaus, we can see evidence of the toll it is taking:
The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”
Notice the verb tenses in the first bolded sections. They used the past tense. Their pain, emotions and doubts leads them to understand Jesus only in the past. He is dead and buried and there is nothing to be done. All their hopes, dreams, aspirations and work are lost and for nothing. In the past, they hoped that Jesus was the Messiah who was going to redeem Israel. Now, not so much. They know that He failed them.
Jesus had been killed so their hopes were clearly wrong. Their dreams had been destroyed with Jesus’ body on the Cross. They also did not believe in the reports of the Resurrection. They were so distraught and hurt from the crucifixion they couldn’t have any more faith. They were provided clear evidence that there was still reason for hope. Jesus told them this was going to happen and the evidence agreed with His prediction, they just could not wrap their heads around the idea of God working differently than their expectations. All of their trust had been wrung out of them by their wrong expectations, loss and fear of the last few days.
It is really easy to pick on the disciples when we read these passages. Yet, how w often do we find ourselves in the same situation? With terrible events on our news channels and the personal challenges we all face, how often do we catch ourselves feeling like all hope is gone?
How often does our judgment of a situation lead us to despair and loss while we wonder where our God is?
“I had hoped that Jesus would….what?”
Give us a better spouse? Provide a more lucrative job? Heal a suffering loved one? Take away our addictions?
But the suffering and pain we are feeling has made us lose all hope and forget the promises of God. Jesus has become a memory of yesterday rather than the Risen Savior walking alongside us.
This is when faith in the Lord must replace trust in our own senses and emotions. We are just men and women. He is the all-knowing and all-powerful God. Our emotions can be deceptive and wicked. Jesus never lies and will never let us down.
Whose plan do we trust?
We don’t see the whole picture of what is going on at the moment. God makes us promises in His word. He is not challenged to keep them. We just need to remember them, trust them and walk by faith.
His ways are not our ways, they are supremely better. His ways are perfect. They are worth waiting for.
Jesus’ response is simple. Disciples you are walking by sight, not by faith!
Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
How many times did Jesus tell them He was going to die? Even putting that aside, Jesus takes them to the Bible and shows them the same plan for the Messiah spelled out in the Old Testament.
Snap out of it and open your spiritual eyes!
Jesus is direct but also much gentler than I would be in the same situation. Jesus loves them like a Shepherd tending His lost sheep. Instead of rebuking them and demanding apologies, He holds an impromptu Bible study showing them where they went astray. He allows His Word to show them the glorious truth that their hearts are struggling to see at that moment.
Jesus is not dead, He is Risen! Evil has not won, it is defeated! It is finisher, once and for all!
The love and patience of our Master are amazing, aren’t they? They are walking away from their life in Jesus while expressing their disappointment in Him at the same time Jesus does the greatest act of redemption in all of history.
Jesus loves them anyway.
Cleopas and friend are gravely disappointed in Jesus after the crucifixion because they don’t understand who He really is. They wanted a Messiah who would fight battles and free them from temporal bondage. Jesus is a Messiah who saves us from eternal judgment and ushers us into everlasting peace.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we mourn over the jarring losses and pain in the world today. This is perfectly normal and healthy. Our Savior, Jesus wept over the pain we experience when Lazarus lay in his tomb. God’s creation was once much different. These are not the works of God in this fallen world.
But do we trust that God is alive and working even when things look bleak? He promises that He will use even the most painful moments in order to turn the profane into the glorious. It is what He did with His Son through the Cross. Do we believe in His ongoing power and will to do so?
The disciples just needed to wait and listen for the sound of their Lord’s voice to have their viewpoint radically altered. When they heard their Master and really saw Him for the first time, they went from disappointment and hopeless to exhuberantly joyful in a moment. The finally saw His perspective and understood His plan. It is infinitely better.
How can we rejoice in times of suffering? By trusting that God’s plan, His works and His Son are still as wonderful and unexpected as that moment when Cleopas realized that Jesus was really not in the tomb. Jesus was alive, was concerned for him and had been walking by his side the entire time. He is doing the same for all of us this very day!
Our Risen Lord is working in each of our lives in His ways.
We just have to watch, trust and walk by faith while we wait for our Savior to show us His mighty works.