53 Weeks Past the Cross – Happily Ever After?
By Terrie C
I used to cringe when someone would quote this Scripture:
~For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says YHVH, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.~ Jeremiah 29
I cringed because plenty of devout believers didn’t have glorious endings. Plenty are facing inglorious endings as I type.
It was a great catch-verse, and used often in the “name it and claim it” cliques. Christianity teaches that every line of Scripture was addressed to every believer. A good ending, guaranteed. Scripture and history, though, paint a different picture. From my first read-through of the Bible more than ten years ago, I took notes pertaining to who was speaking and who was being spoken to. It matters, doesn’t it? Moses closed his eyes to this world without having stepped foot in the land that was promised to him. Job was given back double what he lost, but if you’ve ever lost a loved one, you know they cannot be replaced. Plenty of God-loving men in Scripture had unhappy endings. Plenty of God-loving men (and women) outside of Scripture have had unhappy endings. Whenever Jeremiah’s Scripture was used in a “prosperity” teaching or a “you can do it!” teaching, I would think to myself “Yeah, tell that to the Jews in the holocaust!” I confess that wasn’t a very godly thing to think, but it’s what I thought, nonetheless. In fact, I struggled a lot with the way the Jewish people have been persecuted through the years, and the nonJewish, as well. Clearly Scripture promises believers salvation. It befuddled me to wonder why it seemed as though sometimes God came through for His people, and sometimes He didn’t. I have gained enough wisdom to know the error is in my understanding, but I did not know how to overcome it, or gain that understanding. God brought me some in a most unusual way. I love when He does that, don’t you?
The first thing he set before my eyes was a post about the holocaust. The author of the post said men ask where God was during this dark time in human history, but that’s not the right question. The question should be, “Where was man? Where were the men who were supposed to a light to the nations? Where were the defenders of the oppressed? Where were the lovers of their neighbors? Where were the just men?” That really gave me something to chew on! Such fantastic questions! Where were they, indeed? I was so grateful for that insight, but God wasn’t done. He wanted to make sure I knew He was teaching me something! Next, He allowed me to cross paths with a survivor from a concentration camp. We “clicked” right away and began corresponding. With her kind and gentle spirit, she gave me glimpses into what she refers to as “the house of death””. Her stories and poems broke my heart, but also showed me something I had been missing. She showed me that sparks of love and hope live in the darkest places. She taught me that beauty was even more appreciated when there was so little of it. Through her writing, I learned that a soul could love and value a smooth pretty stone when it was the only possession they had. Finally one day, I worked up the nerve to ask her how they didn’t give up on God, even after they’d watched their families murdered. I know I will chew on her answer for the rest of my life.
She gave the answer straight from her daily prayers. This is what she prays:
“You led us through water and fire and who should die. We are still the people who call you One.
You led us through water and fire and who should die. We are still the people who say the ‘Shema’ three times a day.
You led us through water and fire and who should die. We are still the people who bless Your Name.”
Now, that might be a Jewish flavored prayer, but it is also straight out of Tanakh. We can sure glean wisdom in it! He is the God who leads us through water and fire. Knowing water and fire are part of our journey, the question is then thrown back on us. Why do we give up on God when the water is high and the fires are blazing? Is He only a good God when our life is good? What if “prosperity, blessings and abundance” aren’t within our reach in this lifetime? What if our struggle is for His story or glory, and not our own? Do we stop serving God and go our own way? Don’t those who died without ever renouncing God’s Name make such an impact on us still today? This is another area where Christianity left “bloodstains from Jesus” on us! They teach that it’s all about us, but Tanakh teaches that it’s all about YHVH. We forget that, don’t we?
The last interesting thing about my “lesson” in suffering is that the answer has been inside of me for a whole year now, and I never connected it to my non-understanding of the holocaust, or in God’s people suffering in general. When I walked away from the cross and realized I would be judged on my own merit instead of on Jesus’, I said this in my prayers:
“Even if I do not merit citizenship in the World to Come, I still call you God and call your Torah perfect. I will do my best to walk in it and walk it out!”
I still pray that sometimes. When we can love God more than our own comfort or desires, perhaps it’s then that we know we are truly walking with Him. In Him. When we love Him when every wall has crumbled in our own world, we experience a facet of Him that we miss on sun-shiny days. When we love Him in the water and fire, we can count on Him to lead us through it. Even in the valley, where death’s shadow is cast on us, He is there. No matter my ending while wearing this coat of flesh, it is not my ending, and He is good. I’m sure it’s the same for the souls who died still loving and trusting Him. Like my prayer, they must have prayed “Even if I suffer, I call You God and I call You good!” It was not their ending just because we didn’t see their salvation. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that they did see it! I can’t say that I have a complete grasp on the concept of suffering, but I am so much closer than I was a few weeks ago! I guess it will take all of this life and then some to understand His ways. Life sure is different here on this side of the cross!
“See” you next week! ~Terrie C