Tonight in my scripture study class someone asked why God sometimes seems to leave us when we need him most. He quoted the scripture, “I will not leave you comfortless” and then asked why that didn’t seem to be true at times.
I thought about this for a minute and my mind rested on the word “leave”. Sometimes we do feel comfortless. Sometimes it feels as though God has abandoned us, that we are hopeless, helpless, and alone. Sometimes in our times of greatest need we will wonder where God is and why he would leave us when we’re doing everything right, when we are doing our best to follow Him and do His will. But that word “leave” is very important. He does not say, “I will not allow you to be comfortless,” or “I will not let you feel alone.” He says that He will not leave us that way.
I struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, anxiety, and more. I do not ask why bad things happen to good people; I simply know that they do. But I have never had something bad happen to me that I wasn’t grateful for eventually. The darkness is sometimes a very lonely place, but I know that if I can just hold on long enough, I will not be left comfortless.
This week and the week before have been incredibly difficult. I have felt like I am trudging through waist-deep mud simply getting up in the morning and doing the day to day necessities of life. Tonight though, I felt okay enough to go to my class. I don’t think that was a coincidence. I don’t think that comment or my comment in response were coincidences.
It may have been a small thing, but reasons like that give me hope in the darkness. Tomorrow, life may feel hard again. I may feel depressed and alone, but if that means I can help someone else see the light, I would go through the darkness over and over.
There is no fear in love; but perfectlove casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
This is one of my favorite scriptures. I have a lot of fear in my head. I fear people. I fear what they can do. I fear being rejected or hurt or yelled at or ignored by others. When I want to do good, my mind tells me that I should not because I fear being hurt.
I love this scripture so much though because it is the reason I keep doing good anyway. Even though my mind tells me all of the reasons I am not good enough and all of the reasons I have to fear, my heart tells me to love anyway. I keep doing good because I know “perfect love casteth out fear.”
I do not love perfectly. I do not love even close to perfectly. And I pray constantly and consistently to love more and to love better. Today in church we talked about this chapter and one of my favorite people commented about how she can understand God because she understands love. I thought about how I don’t understand love. I understand a glimpse of love. I understand the surface of love, but I struggle to understand what it means to love and be loved.
However, I have also been learning about compassion. “In the scriptures, compassion means literally to suffer with.“ I understand suffering. I understand what it feels like to suffer with someone. I am not sure if that is the same thing as love, but I know that I feel love when I show compassion. And because I feel love when I show compassion, I tell my fears to be quiet for the moment while I do something good.
I am still afraid of doing good. I still fear the consequences of being kind. But I remember to love anyway and that love casts out fear, even if just for a minute while I do something good. I cannot love perfectly right now, but I can love right now. I can do good right now despite the fear, and I can let that love cast out fear for a moment until the day where the fear will be dispelled with perfect love.
I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts that my best friend is currently homeless. Well, I used to think that I was pretty understanding of people who struggled with addictions or homelessness or other issues. But honestly, I had no idea.
I’m a pretty nonjudgmental person. I mean, I know how many things I struggle with so I’m pretty forgiving of other people’s struggles. I know no one is perfect, and I don’t expect them to be. However, I would still think things like, I hope that guy stays away from me or that’s sad but there’s nothing I can do. But now, I’ve realized that there is something I can do. I can care.
My best friend is homeless and she doesn’t always have food to eat. My best friend is homeless and is struggling to hold a job because of her mental struggles. My best friend is homeless and is consistently mistreated by the people around her, even people who should be helping her.
And I… I will never look at another human being the same way again.
No wonder Christ spent his time with the weak and hurt and broken. No wonder he lifted the heads of the downtrodden and helped those that no one else would. Christ understood that that broken person was someone’s best friend. He understood that someone loved that person and needed that person and would do anything for that person. And he understood that they weren’t just someone’s best friend, but His best friend. He knew their valiant spirits and He loved them because He saw what was there to love.
If you have never felt love towards a homeless person or a drug addict or a convict or someone else that society looks down on, just think that they could have been your best friend. Maybe they could even be your best friend.
Are you seeing them as a person? Are you really seeing them? Or are you seeing a glimpse of how life has broken them down?
My best friend is amazing. She is beautiful and selfless and wonderful. She makes me laugh when I feel like crying and smile when I see through tears. She is the most giving, loving, helpful person I know. She is my hero. And even though she is struggling right now, I couldn’t love her more. She is and will always be my best friend and I miss her and I love her to pieces.
I have been planning and practicing a painting for the last few months and I finally finished it last night. It’s a painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The idea to paint this came when I was looking at other paintings of Christ in the Garden. I noticed that most of them had Jesus kneeling. I couldn’t help but reflect on my own desperate prayers. When I have prayed in my most desperate moments, I am generally on the floor with my head in my hands. I know that Christ is better than me and that He wasn’t a normal human being, but I just couldn’t see Him kneeling perfectly upright while suffering for the entire human race.
Then I thought about how hard it must have been for Heavenly Father to watch His only begotten Son suffer and not be able to go to Him. I imagined that He would be embracing our Heavenly Mother and comforting her while sorrowing Himself. And I imagined that everyone else in heaven would be sorrowing with them.
Next I thought about the angel that God sent to comfort His Son. I wondered what I would do if I had been sent to strengthen Christ. How would I comfort Him while knowing that I would be part of why He suffered? And the only thing I could think of was that I would cry with Him. That’s what Jesus did for Mary and Martha. He wept even though He knew that everything would be okay. Even though Christ knew that Lazarus’s death would eventually bring hope and joy to everyone who believed in Him, He wept because He had compassion. And I think that the angel sent to comfort Christ would have done the same thing.
The last thing I thought about was Jesus’s apostles. I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen asleep while praying. Jesus told His disciples to watch and pray. I think that they were trying to follow His counsel and were praying, but couldn’t keep their eyes open. As Jesus said, “The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” His disciples wanted to be diligent, but they had taken in so much that day and in the previous weeks that they fell asleep.
So… here’s the final product. I hope that it makes you think about the Atonement as much as it has made me think about it.
We talk about Christ’s suffering in terms of blood, the cross, and death. But in reality, Christ’s suffering was our own suffering.
I have often thought about the scripture that says Christ bled from every pore in the garden of Gethsemane. I used to think that that bleeding was Christ’s suffering. That Christ’s blood was the price of our sins and that through His blood He atoned for our sins. Now though, I realize that it is so much more than that.
Christ didn’t just suffer by bleeding. I have come to realize that bleeding may not have been part of the suffering at all. Jesus bled because the suffering was so great that it caused him to essentially sweat blood. The blood was not the pain he endured, but rather a way for his body to release the pain he was enduring.
For example, if you scrape your knee, the bleeding itself doesn’t hurt- the scrape is what hurts. It’s not bleeding that causes pain, but rather the pain or injury that causes the bleeding. That’s why sometimes people can be bleeding and not even realize it- because we don’t feel the pain from the bleeding itself.
So, considering that, it’s easier for me to realize that Christ really did suffer for me. His suffering wasn’t a price of blood that was paid one drop per sin or sorrow. His suffering was actually the experience of my suffering. He suffered for me in a way that only God can. And because that suffering- the suffering to understand the pains and sins of every human being -was so great, His body bled to cope with the pain that He felt.
Christ didn’t just bleed and die for me. He suffered for me. He suffered to understand me. He experienced my pains and sorrows so that He could know what I go through and so He could know how to comfort me. And because He suffered for me, I don’t have to suffer like He did. I can be comforted through Him and know that I will never be alone as He was because He is always willing to be there with me. And when I fall into the depth of despair, I know that He understands and will weep with me and rejoice with me when my trials are over.
I think Caiaphas is probably the hardest guy for people to see the good in. I mean, Judas started out as an apostle, and Pilate was a governor that didn’t have any religious connections to Jesus. Caiaphas though was the high priest of the Jews. You would think that a religious person in a position like that wouldn’t allow the Son of God to be crucified.
What most people overlook though is that Caiaphas prophesied the death of Christ. He told the chief priests and Pharisees that Jesus would have to die in order for their nation not to perish and to gather all the children of Israel together (John 11:49-52).
Caiaphas probably knew the prophecies about Christ. He may have even believed that Jesus was the Christ. So if Jesus was Christ then he had to die in order to fulfill all the prophecies about him. In John 12:42 it says that many of the chief rulers believed on Jesus. Maybe Caiaphas was one of these rulers that believed on Jesus, but he felt it was necessary to hide his belief in order to preserve his position.
As I’m writing this, I realize that this is probably a bit of a stretch. Caiaphas may have just been deceived by his own pride or his fellow priests or he just may not have had enough knowledge of Jesus to believe in him. His prophecy of Jesus’s death makes me think there’s a little more to the story though. Maybe Caiaphas was high priest for a reason. Maybe he had a great understanding of the scriptures and even if he didn’t understand that Jesus was the Savior, he understood that Jesus would have to die in order to preserve their nation.
We don’t have any information from the Bible about Caiaphas meeting with Jesus. The Bible states that Jesus was taken to Caiaphas and that he was then taken to Pilate, but it doesn’t mention the actual interaction that took place between them. Maybe if we had this interaction we could understand Caiaphas a little better, but for now I guess we can just keep speculating.
Pontius Pilate is probably my favorite of the three guys I’m discussing. I think it’s pretty easy to see the internal dilemma that Pilate faced. He knew he was sending an innocent man to his death, but that was his job. Pilate was essentially required to keep the peace, to appease the masses and maintain order, and to honor the traditions that were being followed. So he had to decide between possibly causing the fall of his city/ civilization or sending an innocent man to his death. It probably wasn’t the first innocent man he allowed to be condemned, but it was also probably the hardest choice he had to make.
Even his wife told him to have nothing to do with Jesus. But what choice did he have? He could have sent Jesus somewhere else to be judged, but that would make him seem weak and would have only prolonged the problem. He could have released Jesus despite the crowd, but that could have caused an uprising and Jesus probably would have been killed by the crowd anyway. He could have tried to force the Jewish leaders to find a way to kill Jesus on their own, but that would imply that the Jews had more power than he did.
So Pilate did what he felt was best for his city, his people, and their way of life. And then he “washed his hands” of the whole deal.
Maybe Pilate could have been “stronger.” Maybe he could have forced the people to bend to his will and let Jesus go. But what would that have solved? What would anyone have gained from that? If anything, it would have caused more blood to be shed, more lives to be lost, more hatred and contempt and misunderstanding.
So yes, Pilate allowed Jesus to be crucified. But does that really make him a bad person or a weak person? Or does that just make him a human?
I think Judas is probably most infamous for the kiss where he betrayed Jesus. In movies this is often portrayed as a sly, malicious, deceitful kiss. I wonder though, was this kiss really just a secret code to let people know who to capture?
What if Judas’s kiss was one of love and affection and a way of trying to let Christ know that he wasn’t really trying to betray him?
Maybe Judas chose a kiss as the sign because he wanted a way to let Christ know that he cared for him and that he was trying to do the right thing. Maybe his words “Master, master” was a plea rather than a mocking.
Maybe Judas betrayed Jesus because he thought that if he turned Jesus in that Jesus would show everyone who He really was. Maybe Judas wanted a sign that he hadn’t abandoned his life for no reason. Maybe he wanted some reassurance that he really was following the Son of God. And maybe he thought that if he just turned Jesus over to the people that didn’t believe that Jesus was the Christ, that Jesus would show them all how divine he really was.
Maybe Judas didn’t even think that he was betraying Christ at all. Maybe that’s why Judas took the money back and wouldn’t keep it. Maybe that’s why he hung himself. Maybe he thought that surely the chief priests and the governors would see that Jesus was innocent and let him go free. Maybe he had a grand vision of the missionary work that Jesus could do while in the midst of all these leaders of men.
But then… when it all went wrong, what could Judas do? Maybe then he wanted to take it all back. Maybe then he wanted to save Jesus and he thought he could undo what he had done.
When he realized that he couldn’t change his deeds though, he must have felt worthy of death. Judas knew that Jesus would die even though Jesus was not worthy of death and it was Judas’s fault. So as Christ’s betrayer, Judas might have remembered Jesus’s words that it would have been better if he had not been born (Mathew 26:24). So what was left to do when his betrayal was so painfully obvious now that Jesus had been condemned?
I don’t know whether Judas really was malicious at heart or if his faith just faltered or if pride was his downfall, but I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, we judge Judas a little too harshly for what he did.
There are three people in the New Testament that get a pretty bad rap. Judas Iscariot, Pontius Pilate, and Caiaphas the high priest.
These are the people who were essentially responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. So it is not hard to see why people aren’t prone to see the best in these three men. However, as I have been reading the New Testament recently, I have been feeling more and more that maybe these guys weren’t as bad as they seem.
I have always been slow to judge, maybe even a little too slow sometimes. I like to see the best in people and so I guess it’s sort of inevitable that I’d see the best in these men. I can’t help but wonder if they all thought they were doing the right thing until it was too late to change things.
Check back in tomorrow for the more in depth details of why I see some good in these “Bible bad guys.” I’ll be doing a separate post for each of these three men of the Bible.