Easter is a celebration of certainties for Christians. We know that the resurrection of Jesus provides evidence that he can heal physical diseases – By his stripes we are healed. (Is. 53:5) We know that our eternal life is secured because of his rising from the dead.
But we come to God in prayer, oftentimes, with very real human hurts. We feel let down by our friends, or maybe we have been actually betrayed. This can take many forms in our lives: we can have expectations of people, and they don’t come through for us. We might count on our close friends to understand, to be gracious, to make time for us – and they don’t seem to get it, they are resentful, or they are busy.
We even come to God, sometimes, uncertain of whether he is really available to us. Is he listening? Does he care? Or has he, too, let us down?
The story of Holy Week shows us a powerful dimension of God’s trustworthiness for us. Consider this: Jesus’s friends let him down in the Garden of Gethsemane – “Can you not watch with me for even one hour?” (Matt 26:40) One of his closest friends betrayed him – turned him over to his enemies – “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:48) And another close friend denied even knowing him. Jesus was abandoned by those he was closest to, humanly speaking, in his greatest time of need of their support and companionship.
More than that, Jesus experienced God’s rejection. God turned his back on him while he was doing that very thing, that hardest thing, that he was asked to do – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
But Jesus’s resurrection proves this for us: We have the promise of God’s presence, always and always, no matter what circumstances come our way, because Jesus was rejected, forsaken by God. There is nothing that we suffer, no disappointment, rejection, emotional hurt that we experience that Jesus himself did not experience. Jesus was rejected by God so that we will NEVER be rejected by God. He was forsaken, abandoned by God, so that we will NEVER be forsaken or abandoned by God. We may feel as if we are let down, betrayed, abandoned by our friends – but we will never, ever be rejected by God.
God is with us. God is always with us. He wants to be with us. He yearns for us to be certain of his presence.
And in the culmination of all of human history, when there is a new heavens and a new earth, it is our presence that makes God rejoice most: “Behold, his dwelling place is with man.” (Rev. 21:3)
So when we pray, we are praying to a loving God who sits beside us, whose hand is in ours, whose arm is around our shoulders. He is listening intently, he looks into our eyes. He remembers, he is encouraging, he loves us no matter how hurt or messed up we feel. Jesus has made sure of this for us. Jesus has made sure of this for us.
- Emily Williams