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#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who saw Jesus on the cross based on Mark 15:33-39.

It was a strange darkness unlike any I had ever seen. Around noon it suddenly covered the whole land in a way that was unlike any severe storm I had ever seen. My friend commented that he wondered if this was what the darkness looked like when it covered Egypt at the time of Moses before the Exodus. Some said it was because they crucified Jesus.

It wasn’t something I necessarily liked to see, but curiosity got the best of us so my friend and I made our way to Golgotha. There in the darkness we could make out three crosses. I barely recognized Jesus, the man I had seen a few times teaching the crowds. It was a gruesome scene with blood dripping down the wood beams from bodies suspended with spikes. I became nauseated at the site. What had this man done to deserve such severe punishment? What had he done to deserve death?

Suddenly we heard Jesus cry out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Indeed, I could not understand why God would allow such a brutal injustice.

Someone near us remarked, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” My heart ached. It wasn’t enough that they crucified him. Now he had to endure these people mocking him. I wanted to turn my head and shield my eyes, but someone brushed by me with a staff that had a vinegar-soaked sponge on the end. I watched as he hoisted it up to Jesus and offered him a drink. Someone else shouted, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”

“Yes, leave him alone!” I whispered to myself. Something stirred deep inside me as I gazed at Jesus on the cross and then looked at the people mocking him. Something did not feel right. Why were so many so intent on making fun of him?

“We should go,” my friend said to me with a sad face. “I’ve seen enough.”

I nodded in agreement. As I turned to leave, I heard Jesus cry out. I looked back at the cross and saw his body suddenly slump with a sigh as he breathed his last. Tears began to stream down my cheeks as I traced trickles of blood down the wood beam to a pool on the ground. My head slumped with sadness. “Who was this man,” I wondered to myself. That’s when I heard the centurion standing in front of Jesus say, “Surely this man was the Son of God.”

© 2019 CGThelen

The pain is deep

It eats at my soul

My heart stiffens

I ache for relief

My body tightens

Muscles tense

Tendons strain

I can’t move

My brain swells

Turbulence within

Emotions swirl

A whirlwind inside

Tears well up

Eyes close

Salt water streams

Touch my lips

Body crumples

Folding in half

Whimpers break

The silent room

Darkened window

Broken shade

Beam of light

Upon the floor

Tear drops glisten

Reflecting light

Sparkles of hope

Deep in my soul

“I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” – Psalm 6:6

“Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5

© 2019 CGThelen

Praying to God for healing is a difficult thing for me. It is a wrestling match between my will and the will of God. It is a deep yearning to lay down my desires for God’s desires. Yet my emotions tell me I want people I love to be whole, to not suffer. It hit me again this week when I found out a coworker who retired last year has terminal cancer and a year to live.

This struggle of wills reminds me of Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1-6. After he became ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover (verse 1, NIV).” These are words we do not want to hear from the doctor: “Your cancer is terminal.” They are words I have heard about a loved one: “He will not make it through the night.”

Hezekiah turned away from Isaiah in his bed and faced the wall. He prayed to God, “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes (verse 3).” I can feel Hezekiah’s grief as he wept bitterly. I have found myself reciting a similar prayer when devoted followers of Christ I know have died; when friends contract terminal cancer. “Lord, these are people who have followed you; righteous people dedicated to serving you. Why?” In prayer I plead as Hezekiah did, “Lord, these people have walked faithfully with you; they are devoted to you.”

God heard Hezekiah’s plea, his prayer. In verse 4-5 he tells the prophet Isaiah to go back and tell him, “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and he hears our prayers. Yet it is a matter of God’s will, his plan, whether he heals. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life, but not just because of Hezekiah’s will or his righteous acts. “And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.”

God chose to heal Hezekiah for his purposes; for his sake and for the sake of his servant David. God chose to continue to use Hezekiah. It seems I always want what I want and I don’t understand why God does what he does. But that is the element of faith in him. Part of the process of opening up to God in prayer is to also open up our heart to God; to share with him the deep desires of our heart and to know he hears our prayers. The answer to our prayers, our pleas, is to rest in God’s will for our life and the lives of those we dearly love in this world.

© 2019 CGThelen

In the deepest pit of sadness, as sorrow overwhelmed me, I cried out to God to somehow free me from the suffering. When tears flowed seemingly from no where, I cried out to you Lord, “Let this pass.” When my body tensed, my breathing quickened and my heart rate increased, I cried out to you God. Tears flowing, filled with sorrow, I cried to God to let this pass, but you gave me the words of your son Jesus instead: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will (Luke 14:36, NIV).”

God has created us for a specific purpose. He has uniquely crafted us, chosen us to do his will. Our obedience, as difficult as it is at times, is essential to carrying out God’s plan — to help others find the path to salvation through Christ Jesus. Through our struggles God deepens our faith. He uses our pain to help build empathy for others who experience pain. In the Kingdom of God nothing is wasted; fruit is born out of our suffering.

When I feel alone and full of grief, I recall the words of Jesus: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (14:34).” Even though Jesus shared with his disciples the deep emotional pain he felt, they ultimately abandoned him in his time of need. Jesus understands the feeling of loneliness; he understands suffering for God’s purposes. In Christ Jesus you are not alone. He will never forsake you.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:32-36

© 2019 CGThelen

I feel the light begin to wane

Darkness knocks at my door

An old acquaintance

Wanting to pay me a visit

.

The last time you were here

You crushed all my joy

Took away any laughter

Pulled the shades on the light

.

Tears well up inside of me

Hopelessness seeps in

My body aches with pain

As I struggle to move

.

A river of sorrow flows

From deep within my soul

Drowning out all emotion

Numbing my senses

.

With my last ounce of energy

I fight back against the dark

Press as hard as I can

To keep the light within me

.

I cry out to the Lord God

“Please give me the strength!”

I hear him gently whisper

“I am your strength.”

.

I feel God’s peace wash over me

Though I am encircled by dark

The light within glows bright

Emptiness filled with God’s joy

.

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.” – Psalm 116:5-8

© 2019 CGThelen

There I was in another funeral home with another friend grieving over the death of a family member. There was no warning. She died suddenly, leaving behind a husband, young children, family and friends. I gave him a hug and told him how sorry I was, but it felt so inadequate. I felt helpless. Nothing I could do would take away the deep sorrow he felt at such a devastating loss.

It’s a painful experience being separated from those we love. There’s a feeling that it just isn’t right, that this is not the way it should be. I cannot help but think if this is how God felt when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden after they sinned? In Genesis 3:22-23, God sends them out of the garden and separates them from the tree of life. From that moment on, death becomes a part of life.

It is that thought of separation that has often had me wondering what made Jesus weep in John 11:35. Was it his full divinity weeping over the separation of humans from God or was it his full humanity weeping over the loss of his dear friend Lazarus? Either way, moments later Jesus points us to our true hope when he commands, “Lazarus, come out (John 11:43-44)!” John then tells us that Lazarus emerged from the tomb.

In the midst of our grief, we can find hope that resurrection awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As Jesus told Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe (John 11:40, NLT)?” In that hope we can give praise for Jesus’ death and resurrection that has given us the hope of eternal life. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting (1 Corinthians 15:55, NLT)?”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 12, 2011.

© 2011 CGThelen

I sat with her as she lay dying. The machine behind me pulsated, providing oxygen to sustain her in these final moments. She could no longer swallow and her voice was barely audible, yet occasionally she was able to say a few words. I held her hand and told her, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Even though she was very weak, she managed to lightly squeeze my hand. The cancer had ravaged her body, taken away all her strength, and now it was taking her life. She was no longer able to sit up and had been bed-ridden for more than a week. But now I sensed the end was near.

I gently pulled the hair away from her face and slowly caressed her head, trying to sooth her. “Water,” she managed to utter. She was no longer able to drink with a straw. I picked up the small sponge on a stick, dabbed it in the cup of water by her bed, and moistened her mouth with it. She sucked on it and I could see the relief on her face as the water refreshed her parched mouth. I set the sponge down and held her hand. “Thank you,” she managed to say with a raspy voice. “It’s okay,” I repeated to her with my mouth close to her ear. “God loves you,” I added.

As difficult as it was to sit with her, I had a sense of peace. I couldn’t help but think of this as an image of God and how he tends to us with a loving touch. In the midst of our difficulties in life, when we feel weak and helpless, he is there holding our hand saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He dabs our parched soul with living water to refresh us. He is there by our side each step of the way, gently caressing our head, soothing our weary soul. We only need to take his hand and say, “Thank you.”

After a few hours of sitting with her, a family member arrived and took over the vigil. A few hours later she died. I thought of what a privilege it is to serve God; how he calls on each of us to serve him in a special way. No one act of service is any greater than any other in the Kingdom of God. We all have our own calling to convey God’s love to others in need of a loving touch; people who need their parched soul moistened with living water. As followers of Jesus Christ it is a privilege to be his hands and feet in a world full of need.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28 (NIV)

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

Wednesday Walk Through the Bible, John 11:1-45, particularly verses 29-45 (NIV)

#WednesdayWalk, an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who went to mourn with Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus.

I arrived at the house to help console Mary and Martha about the loss of their brother Lazarus. A somber mood greeted me as I entered the crowded home. As I made my way through the front room, I tried to locate Mary and Martha. A few minutes later I spotted Mary near the doorway and watched as she quickly left the house. The room emptied out as everyone followed Mary. It appeared she was going to the tomb where her brother was buried.

I followed the crowd for a ways when suddenly everyone stopped. That’s when I spotted Mary bowing at the feet of a man. I asked the person next to me who Mary was bowing to and was told the man was Jesus. I had heard about this man and his miracles, but had never seen him in person.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I heard Mary say to Jesus. She began to weep. Indeed, if it was true he could heal the sick, he could have prevented the death of Lazarus. But now it was too late for him to do anything. Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw the pain on Mary’s face. “Where have you laid him,” I heard Jesus say with a troubled look on his face. There was murmuring in the crowd as some responded, “Come and see, Lord.”

For a moment we all stood stood still, silent as we watched the tears stream down the face of Jesus as he wept with Mary. It was obvious that he loved Lazarus. Some people in the crowd were saying, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” I thought the same thing, but now there was nothing he could do. Who could overcome death?

A moment later we made our way to the tomb. I noticed it was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. That’s when I heard Jesus say something that shocked us all. “Take away the stone,” he said. Martha being the practical one advised Jesus, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” To which Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

What did he mean, “if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Then, to my surprise, against Martha’s advice, they actually took away the stone. I held my nose as I watched it roll away, prepared for a strong stench. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

For a brief moment we all stared at the open tomb. I would not have believed what happened next if I had not seen it myself. To my amazement Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Then the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. I stood frozen as Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” I could see it was indeed Lazarus as the cloth was removed from his face.

I whispered to myself the words Jesus said only moments ago, “that they may believe that you sent me.” Could this be the Son of God as some people had told me before this day. How could I not believe in him after seeing him raise Lazarus from the dead?

© 2018 CGThelen

In the moment

I thank God for each breath I take

In the moment

I thank God for the cooling breeze

In the moment

I thank God for his hand upon my life

In the past

I feel the pain of struggles and trauma

In the past

I grieve for those who are gone now

In the past

I recall God’s hand upon my life

In the future

I worry about tragedies yet to come

In the future

I feel anxiety about the unknown

In the future

I know God’s hand will be upon my life

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matt. 6:33-34 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. – Luke 12:22-23 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

#ThrowbackThursday — This post was originally posted June 11, 2010

This is the first Father’s Day I will be without my dad. It did not really hit me until the other day when I strolled past a display of Father’s Day cards. Instinctively I started to walk toward the display thinking, “Oh, I should get my dad’s card.” No sooner had the thought entered my mind when I remembered he was no longer with us. A sense of loss suddenly filled me; a sense of missing someone you love; a sense of wanting to see him again.

It made me wonder if I have the same sense of loss of not being with God my Father. Do I miss his companionship when I don’t spend enough time with Him? Do I have a love for God that makes me miss Him – makes me long for Him? Do I grieve over the sinful things I do that harm my relationship with Him? Isaiah 59:2 reminds us that our sin separates us from God, that “sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (NIV) Paul told the Ephesians not to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30)

Paul expressed the longing he had for God the Father and Jesus. In Ephesians 1:23-24 he describes being torn between his desire for Jesus and his desire to stay and teach others about Christ. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” I question if I have that same love for God my Father. Do I live in expectation of the day when there will be a reunion with God my father in heaven? Do I long for others to know the love of God?

While this Father’s Day carries with it sadness and loss, there is also joy in thinking about the reunion with God the Father and my dad on the true Father’s Day in heaven.  “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3) There we will no longer feel the pain of separation or the grief of loss. We will live forever in the joy of his presence. “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the older order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)

© 2010 CGThelen

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