The Straw of Despair

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For the last few weeks at Souls Refuge Church where I pastor, we have been trying to learn more about the person of Jesus. In studying His personality we have talked about His playfulness, His willingness to interact with others, His gentleness and His fierce intense resolve to fulfill His purpose here on earth. We have watched Him live, laugh and love. We have watched Him face down devils, demons and scariest of all, the religious crowd. During His week of passion we see Him enduring betrayal, false accusations, intense mental and physical attacks, torture and finally crucifiction. Through it all He never wavered, never bowed, never stumbled, never failed. He silently took all the abuse that mankind and evil could dish out and He stood. Isaiah describes it like this:

Isaiah 53:7-9 (Message)He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.

As Christians we know that Jesus endured all of this for us. His pain and His suffering was deservedly ours, and yet He bore it for us.

In Matthew 27:45 we read that Jesus finally broke his silence, and seemingly finally broke under the weight of his torment.

Matthew 27:45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

After all that He had endured what was it that finally caused Him to cry out? What was that “last straw” that finally broke Him completely? I submit to you it was the same thing that often breaks us and sends us over the edge into moments of despair. Abandonment.

I have learned over the years that I can endure some pretty tough situations as long as I know I have God on my side. It is in those moments when I entertain thoughts that perhaps God has left me, perhaps I have sinned too much, perhaps he has tired of my continual shortcomings. It is when I listen to the voice of the enemy that whispers “He has left you, your one true hope is gone!” It is in these moments that despair floods my soul.

But what could ever cause Jesus to feel this kind of despair. He knew what the word of God said. He was the Word! He knew the everlasting love of the Father, he was of the very same essence. And yet, he cried out in despair. Why?

In that moment Jesus suffered the greatest punishment of all, abandonment, separation from God, separation from all hope. The truest definition of death is eternal separation from God. It is what we are all destined for but for the grace of God. At that moment the sins of the world were placed upon Him, the wages of sin which is death was meted out and for a moment God the Father turned away.

2 Corinthians 5:21(ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Father allowed the Son to endure what was meant for me. Jesus experienced the ultimate curse, the ultimate punishment…separation from God, abandonment, total despair so that I never will. As a Christian no matter what I ever face on this earth, the one thing that I will never experience is a moment without hope. Despair is defined as absolute hopelessness. Despair has no place in the life of a believer. We are never without hope. We have Jesus!

2 Corinthians 4:8(KJV) 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Ps 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Jesus lives. Despair is defeated. Hope springs eternal and life is worth living.

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We’re the Autolites!

I find myself at a very strange place in life. At 48 years old I feel like I should be in the middle of an established career, beginning to see the fruits of years of hard work, enjoying the stability of middle age and building my nest egg for retirement. Instead I find myself starting all over, planting a new church from scratch, helping my wife start a new business, trying to learn new skills.

The last two years were filled with hard work that was seemingly for nought, numerous betrayals by people I had respected and a realization that everyone you love doesn’t always love you back. My soul is wounded, my mind is confused and my body is tired. I find myself questioning my past decisions and struggling with numerous “what ifs.” Self pity is never far away and bitterness could make an appearance at any moment if I were to leave the slightest crack in the door.

Having said all of that, baring my soul all, I have one more thing to say.

“I FEEL GOOD!” (sung in my best James Brown voice). I have an abiding peace in my soul and an unexplainable confidence that God has got me right where he wants me.

I have never been one to be satisfied with the ordinary and the status quo often bores me. God knows me well and has kept things pretty lively over the last 26 years of traveling with Him. As I write this a scripture comes to mind.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Times of transition are often God’s way of revealing to us new things, leading us to new experiences, and showing us things we never dreamed of before. Life is in the living of it and not just in the attaining of stuff. Real life is in experience not just existence. I want to go toe to toe with life for the full 15 rounds and smile when the final bell sounds.

God today I call on you, I know you will answer me. Show me things I never knew before. Amen!

So to my friends who have prayed for me, my foes who have celebrated my impending demise, and the majority of the world who has not had the pleasure of meeting me yet, let me leave you with words of that great theologian, the Autolite Spark plug, “Hey, we’re the Autolites, so go pull the plug on someone else!