I sat on the floor with my face in my hands crippled with discouragement and overwhelmed by the darkness of my family’s circumstances. I wondered and prayed, “How will we ever get through this?!” It was a daily occurrence that I would find my head in my hands feeling helpless and hopeless. On one of these days, the Holy Spirit brought to mind the following scripture:
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. ...We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. — 2 Corinthians 1:3, 8–9 (NLT)
During Holy Week, we are especially reminded of the horror and wonder of the cross of Christ. The wonder of the cross is that God himself, God the Son, stooped down to enter our darkness. With all His power, glory and authority, He had the right to demand that we serve and worship him. He had the right to judge us for our pride and self-centeredness. Instead, He got His hands dirty for us. Even more, He got His body bloody. He entered our darkness … your darkness. He entered your experience to empathize with you to share in your pain, and He went further. He entered the darkness of loss, depression, fear, hopelessness, isolation, rejection, death. He took our darkness onto himself. On the cross, He faced death for us, and not just death of the body. He took all our sin and all the evil of the world so that He might become the focal point of God’s justice. Jesus succumbed to the ultimate darkness of hell, eternal death, for you and for me. But in His death was the death of death. We all know what happened three days later. The God who raises the dead entered our darkness, even death itself, and overcame it for you and for me.
I have counseled many people with these sweet truths, and the Holy Spirit knew it was time for me to personally experience them. God was not just light to my darkness, He was with me in the darkness. Like the apostle Paul, I felt the sentence of death through hopelessness and helplessness. I was stripped from all my ability to save myself and my family. I realized in that moment that I was trying to rely on myself and looking for a way out of the darkness. I wanted a change in my circumstances — “throw me a rope or a ladder to get out of my darkness, Lord.” My heart was moved to shift my gaze to look for God in my darkness. My prayer changed to, “Jesus let me know you in my darkness … let me know the darkness of your cross.” Puzzle pieces started coming together in my heart. If I will know Jesus in His resurrection power and all its glory, I must know Jesus in His death and darkness. There is no resurrection without crucifixion. We cannot fully know God, Father, Son, and Spirit, in all His glory and goodness without knowing Him in suffering. I found the hand of Jesus reaching out to me to walk with me in in the pain and fear and discouragement. I found myself being held while I was falling apart. I found a strength upholding me beyond feeling, beyond my control. I found no matter how deep I descended, He and His love met me there. In my pit, in my darkness I encountered God who raises the dead.
This is not just a personal experience, but the truth of God working out His salvation for all of us in this broken sinful world. In knowing the Crucified Son, we will meet the Resurrected Lord.
Scott Barber is senior pastor at Worthington's Grace Community Church.