I’ll give fair warning. This story is a Jesus-y one. Read at your own risk!
He is Risen.
Those 3 words have popped up on my text strings and FB feed all morning. And I admit, they feel a bit cliche. “He is Risen.” But it’s Easter. I mean, I get it. That’s the point of this holiday. But unlike years passed the words feel a bit empty to me, like a catch phrase I just share with other Christians simply because that’s what you do.
I’ve tried to make a concerted effort today to really focus on God. It’s Easter, right? I felt like it was the least I could do. And yet, the world, life, specifically PANS & PANDAS gnaw at me from the background. Who am I kidding? It’s not subtle enough to gnaw. PANS begs, no, PANS demands, ALL of my attention so that there’s absolutely nothing left for anyone or anything else, even God. YOU MUST FOCUS ON THIS PROBLEM, NOT ON THE PROBLEM SOLVER it screams while little drops of spit fly from it’s mouth and splat across my face.
There’s truly a war within myself; my desperate need to heal the immense pain me and my family are experiencing, stop the bleeding so to speak, verses the gentle Spirit of God, respectful and ever-present; steady as a rock, calmly whispering, “Come to ME, all who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” Just hearing the word rest draws the deepest loneliest parts of myself, yet when I try and move in its direction, I am bound in isolation. I can not move any closer to that safe space. It’s as though an invisible but unbreakable wall planted itself firmly between us. I must stay in my appointed place of fear and darkness. I may not enter into that rest.
This is the face of suffering. Suffering produces loneliness. Suffering makes me feel as if no one in the entire universe understands what I’m going through. I feel sealed off; detached. Not just from the world, but from the Creator of it. Which is the point of the lie in the first place. Because if we believe that God does not care for what we are going through and that He is the type of God that abandons us when we need Him most, if we believe that His rest is unobtainable because of some invisible blockade, we then fail to recognize that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection prohibits that very thing from even being possible. That’s why the father of Lies tells the children of God that we are isolated in our suffering. Because it’s right there, right there square in the middle of our greatest suffering, that we are actually closest to Christ.
He is Risen.
The father of lies can be quite convincing. Even as I read my Bible this morning, desperately seeking comfort in His words the sound of my son trapped in his OCD as he counts the 1,754th bounce of his ball echoes in the background. 1,755, 1,756, 1,757, 1,758…. He too, all alone; detached from us. Each consecutive number tenses the muscles in my neck that much more. What my son doesn’t realize is he is not alone. I am right there with him. He may feel alone, but here I am. Right here. How he feels inside is very real to him, but the idea that he is isolated and cut off from me; not so. His mind has deceived him. He believes the lie too. I can certainly understand. I can only imagine that He must feel like saying to me at times, “Why have you left me like this alone in my agony?”
He is Risen.
All of God’s people, His greatest sufferers, from Abel to Zechariah, pointed forward to Jesus. And His disciples were no less afflicted than the Old Testament prophets.
“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 2:21).
This was a gift so that we might experience Him more fully, not so that we would suffer alone. Because that story was not our story. That story of isolation and walking a painful path alone, that story belonged only to Christ Himself.
None of the best Bible character’s, not one, truly alone in their darkest hour; except for Jesus.
In order to fully realize the value of salvation to where those 3 little words “He is Risen” have true meaning amidst my own families heartache this morning, it was necessary for me to really consider the cost of Christ’s death.
Yesterday, I lost my temper with D after I had spent nearly 70 dollars we don’t have on a dinner I just knew he would love and told him he could watch TV while eating it and instead of smiling big and giving me a great big bear hug for being “the bestest mommy in the world”, he got really angry at me and said he “wasn’t eating it, it was so gross and he would rather starve instead” It was a common indicator that his brain inflammation was coming back after 2 good days now that we had ended a 5 day steroid taper the day before.
Exhausted, overwhelmed and incredibly disappointed that the treatment failed to hold, I freaked. “THEN GO UPSTAIRS AND STARVE THEN!! I’M SO TIRED OF YOUR NEGATIVITY!!!” It was no surprise when he started bawling. And of course, the mom guilt weighed heavily on my heart. After getting him to finally sit down and eat and apologizing through tears for yelling at him in the first place, I shared my heart with my husband. “I hate that he is so negative and ungrateful! I hate that I then lose my temper because of it! And I hate then that he gets my wrath for a disease he is absolutely powerless to control. How is that FAIR? The worst part is he doesn’t deserve it and the one who is supposed to be comforting him in his pain is the one punishing him for something he isn’t even responsible for. He LITERALLY does not deserve one single solitary ounce of my punishment, he is innocent, totally innocent. And yet, I punish him!” I started sobbing…. “The weight of this is more than I can bare. Knowing that I am causing him more pain when none of this is his fault crushes me…..”
He is Risen.
“He literally does not deserve one single solitary ounce of punishment, He is innocent, totally innocent and yet I punish Him for something He doesn’t deserve at all.”
After living a totally selfless life, being completely and utterly without fault, He was punished for the sins of the world that He himself did not deserve. The one character in the Gospels I had never really considered as the events unfolded was the Father that bestowed that pain upon His Son willingly.
I can not even imagine the sorrow that Jesus’s Father must have felt for punishing His perfect, faultless and physically suffering Son with the worst penalty since eternity began; the guilt and weight of the sins of the world; separation from the comfort of His own father’s love. Talk about a heavy heart. My guilt for yelling at D almost crushed me, as the story goes, God the Father, willed for His innocent son to walk that blood stained path.
And those sins he was being punished with, I continually rack them up, and cast them upon Christ’s chest, MYSELF. They are my sins. They are our sins.
After being spit on, laughed at, mocked, a crown of thorns poked through his skin, blood dripping slowly from his face, body beaten dragged through the dirt and nailed to a cross; He, having the sins of the world hoisted upon his chest, was so isolated and so alone that He cries out “Father, why have you forsaken me?”.
We, as PANS families, we are sharing in the suffering of Christ and I suspect that we are also sharing in the suffering of the Father who allowed those sins to be cast upon His innocent son when we, through a broken and desperate place, punish our children for something they are not responsible for and then feel the pain of hurting our innocent children even more.
I asked myself this morning what was the lesson here? I thought about the chain of events that led to that transforming moment in our universe’s history on that dark day in Golgatha to see if there was something I could take away from the story as it relates to how I deal with the pain my family is experiencing. How do I stop believing the lie that God has forsaken me and mine at the time we need Him most? How do I quench my doubt?
Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, He found comfort and joy in communion with His Father . He often would retreat to lonely places, forgoing both sleep and food, petitioning on behalf of His disciples and on behalf of Himself. Jesus, both Human and Divine; knew that even He needed to be connected constantly in order to overcome. Had He not, He may have failed to carry out the task that was laid before Him. If we are sharing so greatly in the suffering of Christ, by having children who are being punished for something they are not responsible for, and we, as parents, are weak,, broken and afflicted ourselves, how can we expect our faith to not fail without following Christ’s example of radically clinging to our Sustainer?
He is Risen.
He is Risen only because He had taken the cup of suffering not just an agonizing physical death, but of God’s wrath for the sin’s of the world, to which He did not deserve. A penalty that we deserved, and He instead took our place. And His Father, watched and withdrew His comfort, but never His love, so that we could be one with Him.
Jesus has left us this warning: “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping.” Mark 13:35,36.
This is not a mere warning to not do bad stuff because God’s going to be back one day, like the threat we tell our children about Santa’s naughty and nice list in order to get them to behave. But this is how I’ve understood this verse every time before.
It’s actually a piece of really great advice. Had the disciples not abandoned prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to Jesus death, they may have had the opportunity to withstand the doubt and grief. They would have not felt so alone as though Jesus had abandoned them to themselves. Had they followed the example of Jesus, praying and fasting and holding onto God with a Vulcan death grip they may have not wavered in their faith and grieved so profoundly as they stood there watching a suffering Jesus, nails driven through His innocent hands as he hang on that cross. Perhaps their faith would have been sustained by an unseen strength knowing that He would ultimately conquer death.
He is Risen. And without fully understanding the fullness of the sacrifice, the story of salvation is incomplete. It is not just that He was a bleeding victim adorned with a thorny crown, it’s that very much unlike us, when He suffered, God had essentially separated Himself from Jesus, withheld His comforts from His innocent Son by placing sin, detestable by the Father, in between Himself and His Son. Had Jesus not retreated to prayerful places, had he not be a frequent visitor to isolated mountain tops, he may not have been able to overcome the agony he suffered hanging on the cross.
When Christ cried out “It Is Finished” He conquered death and perhaps it was that moment that the lie we tell ourselves about being abandoned by God in our darkest hour was crafted. Perhaps it was right then that the lie began. Because ultimately, believing it minimizes, distorts, and distracts us from the love poured out on the cross that day.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, but without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.