This, the Friday before Easter, is a hard day.
I’d much rather jump straight into Easter, to the joy of the earth singing as it once again feels the touch of Jesus’ feet.
Yet you cannot get to the empty tomb without going through the suffering of the cross.
I’ve written a lot about suffering and pain in these pages. I am often tempted to do almost anything to avoid feeling pain.
It recently struck me that perhaps that is what temptation really is: Satan doing everything he can to help you avoid suffering here on earth.
We don’t know about very many of Jesus’ temptations, but God gives us enough glimpse to know that He, like me, desired to avoid pain.
That is what Jesus’ wilderness temptings were: Satan trying to convince Jesus to believe in him and take the easy, pain-free way of becoming king rather than believing God and obeying His pain-filled, cross way of becoming king.
The way that would also rescue His people.
Too often, I believe Satan instead of God.
Yet Satan did not end his tempting of Jesus in the wilderness.
When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time. ~ Luke 4
That opportune time?
The Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus’ last temptation.
The temptation to once again take the comfortable way instead of the suffering way. The temptation to believe in Satan’s hazy seductions rather than in God’s rock-solid promises.
Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done. ~ Luke 22
I bow my head in shame, knowing how often I choose to believe Satan.
Yes, He was God, yet He still struggled as much as we do with this same temptation.
And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. ~ Luke 22
And so we come full circle.
That which began in a garden now ends in a garden because this time the man obeyed.
Jesus obeyed. He chose to believe in God’s promise while knowing the immediate consequences of pain.
My heart wants to weep because I know why He did this.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5
Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil. ~ Hebrews 2
Because He loves us and He wants to rescue us, to rescue you, from the power of pain and death.
This. This is why we linger long on this hard day instead of leaping ahead to Sunday. To remind us to believe in God’s promises of the end of death and pain even while knowing of the fleeting death and pain we might face in obedience.
May I end with something I wrote and a video I made with a friend? (if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video)
Pause for a moment and dwell on the hard things so that on Sunday your heart can resonate even more fully with Easter’s joy.
It swirls around me like a hurricane
sending my intentions spinning into the blackened sky.
I hear the voice of God
I hear Him tell me what is good
Why can I not obey?
My consistency is that I fail to listen
My constant is that I continue to fall.
The ugly truth?
I don’t believe God.
I don’t believe Him when He tells me what is best.
If I believed, I would obey.
If I trusted in God’s goodness, His love, I would always do what He asks.
I would choose love instead of anger.
I would choose compassion rather than bitterness.
I would forgive instead of clinging to my grudge.
I would assume the best rather than enjoying my irritation.
I would think of others and forget about myself.
How can I obey,
how can I root out this ugliness that is deep inside my heart?
I cannot listen when I will not trust.
And yet I remember.
God is mercy and God is grace.
He changes hearts and He captures our gaze.
He is faithful if we ask;
His wisdom He delights to give.
Christ stayed in the wilderness
He faced down our sin
He trusted in God
Trusted God’s love and goodness
Christ conquered to make me a conqueror.
It captures my heart and teaches me to trust
changing my nature so that I am now able to believe what God says
(special thanks to Kati Pessin for putting together the video and to our Pastor for his thoughts on Christ’s temptations)
art credit for the video: music is “Window” by Album Leaf