Most days, we, the collective, live in a world of routine. Most of us have some sort of regularity to our lives – we awake, eat, work, see family and friends, relax and sleep. Wash, rinse, repeat, like the drum of a washing machine swirling over and over again.
We find peace in the consistency of it – it’s a known place where each of us expects our place and our role in this life.
Then there’s other days – the kind of days that suck the oxygen out of the room in one single breath. The kind of moments where the grief and hurt we feel is so deep, there are no words to describe it. This place, where life does not just crack and break, but disintegrates into dust, is where we find today. The weight of grief is crushing.
One word has laid on my heart for a while now: anguish, meaning “excruciating or acute distress, suffering or pain.” Up until now, I wasn’t sure why it was sitting there. It seemed out of place in some ways – I am in no acute distress.
And then the world flipped upside and backwards with the weight of grief today. And I see anguish in its perfect context, excruciating suffering or pain.
Today, I find myself asking: where is the “euangelion” (good news) gospel in all this mess? Where is Jesus in this chaos of school changes and job changes and broken homes and broken lives and suicide and death? Does he not love us so much more than this?
I can see the pain of the Israelites in Egypt – begging, praying for their escape to the Promised Land. After living through the literal hell of slavery and sand and desert and desperation for 430 years, God does bring deliverance, but I can imagine that was a long wait. The Israelites, they go from one place of slavery to a whole other mountain to climb – the wilderness. For 40 years, the Israelites, wander, wondering if they have been forgotten or left behind by God. There’s hunger and thirst and disease and dissension that runs rampant through the people.
And yet, here’s the crux: God still shows up. He pours water from rocks and brings manna from the heavens daily and even in their complaints, God never abandons them. Did they feel abandoned? Absolutely. But he never does actually walk away from them. This showing up – even in their grief and their pain and the abandon – makes all the difference in their ability to carry on.
This message doesn’t stop in the Promised Land – it follows through the Diaspora, the Exile and the return to Israel. And God’s greatest promise? A tiny baby born in a manger. The Christ-child to bring us all deliverance. The question, “does he not love us so much more than this,” is answered in the shadow of the cross. In his final salvific act, we have been given the hope to carry on. He loved us so much he gave himself even to the fury and pain of the crucifixion and was delivered into death’s hands itself.
In this place of anguish, it seems impossible to find the hope. Christ seems so far – we feel more like Israelites stuck in the hell of Egypt. But Jesus is here. He is working. We do not understand how. We do not understand why often either. As we are begging on our knees for deliverance from this anguish, we find our hope in the shadow of the cross. God is still showing up. He will pour water from rocks and bring manna from heaven daily. He has not abandoned us. He never will.