16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
Imagine yourself in 33AD Jerusalem, on a hill just outside the city walls. Before you are three men being executed by crucifixion. The men on the left and right are known criminals. You would expect to see them.
But the man hanging from the center cross grabs your attention. Everybody knows who this man is: Jesus of Nazareth. What did he ever do to deserve this cruel fate? Who did he hurt? You have heard of his good deeds: blind men receiving sight, the lame regaining the ability to walk, illnesses healed, hungry masses fed, Lazarus risen from his grave… The only “crime” this man committed was boldly standing up against the Jewish leaders and speaking truth.
Yet, here he is. Stripped naked, bloodied and beaten to a pulp, scourged and bleeding, weakened and thirsty. Roman soldiers sit at his feet – not to hear his teaching, but to gamble for his clothing. You hear Jesus, through his agony, ask His Father to forgive these men, because they are ignorant of their actions. Further proof, to your mind, that this man is innocent and undeserving of this humiliating, inhumane end to his life.
Where is the fairness? Where is the glory? Didn’t this man claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah? Look at him now.
If you were standing there on Golgotha that fateful Friday afternoon, or had been in the courtyard earlier and witnessed Simon Peter’s denial of any connection to this condemned man, you may well have come to the conclusion that this man was a charlatan, or just plain crazy. If you had been one of his followers, your faith was most likely shaken (at the very least).
Today, we have the advantage of hindsight. We know how this story ends, and the glory that came on the third day. But, in the moment – in the midst of the horror of the crucifixion – all one could see was what appeared to be an ignoble end to great and miraculous promise.
When we are in the middle of a storm, all we tend to see is the maelstrom swirling around us. Overwhelming feelings of fear and doubt sweep over us when we stare at the problem. But, even in what appears to be the darkest defeat, there is hope.
Today you may be facing a hardship that seems insurmountable, a loss inconsolable. You may feel cheated or victimized. You may be facing a pain indescribable. You may not be able to see a way out of your situation.
Today, I want you to know that you are not hopeless. You are not helpless. You are not alone. Today – right now – I want you to look away from the storm. Fix your gaze on Jesus. Place your hope in Him, the One Who faced the horrors of Good Friday to bring about the death-defying glory of Easter morning. Remember Peter, who stepped out of the boat on the choppy, storm churned sea to walk to Jesus. Peter walked on water as long as his focus was on Christ. As soon as he turned his eyes toward the storm, he began to drown.
And Jesus saved him.
Today, you can choose to be bitter. You can decide to cry out, “Unfair.” You can despair over your lot in life and feel despondent or angry or just want to give up. We all have the choice to stew in our misery, if we so desire. And, in the moment, that may actually feel good. But, in the end, what does all that ick bring us?
Or we can choose faith. Choose to forgive. Choose to be brave. Choose to be confident in our Savior. Choose to let peaceful joy and love reign in our lives. Choose to see our situation as a life change, one that is not a loss, not a failure, but one that will ultimately be a blessing. Choose to see how each of us can help others through what we – and they – are facing.
God can take any circumstance and turn it to His glory. This moment will pass. The sorrow will not last forever. The hard time will lift. Keep focused on God. I truly believe that God never closes one door without opening another. We just need to focus on Him with open eyes of faith.
Remember: we cannot see whole of our situations in life. All we see is the limited information we have before us. Do not assume the bad news is bad. Do not accept defeat. Do not despair. The situation is rarely – if ever – quite what it seems.