As you probably know, Jesus was unjustly accused of several crimes and sentenced to death. He was nailed to a cross and endured hours of physical torment before dying. The great movement that Jesus had begun seemed to come to a crashing halt. Many of Jesus’ friends and students went into hiding. Eventually, many of them went back to their old jobs, to their former way of life. It seemed like Jesus started out His public life a winner but ended it as a loser. The traveling teacher, who taught about a God that ordinary people could connect to, now seemed disconnected from that God. He was dead. Many historians and thinkers have labeled Jesus as a loser. Others have proposed that Jesus never intended to die on a cross. It was all random chance. They say it demonstrated Jesus’ lack of leadership and vision in realizing what His opponents were capable of.
Personally, I think those kinds of folks are missing the entire point of Jesus’ life and death. It’s not surprising that many people miss the point of Christ’s death on the cross. It makes no sense from the human perspective. Success is about winning. From a worldly perspective God should be the ultimate winner. God’s got all the power, all the resources, and all the authority to do what He wants. Why in the world would God want to lose?
The great mystery of spirituality is that to the way to win is to lose. As human beings each of us is broken deep down inside. Our souls have been unplugged from their homeland, which is God. In the past people believed God favored the successful, the powerful, and the brilliant. Jesus’ death on the cross crushed that lie forever.
Can you imagine a God that would take the place of the loser to show that all of us can be winners in His love? That’s the kind of God that the Christian faith proclaims. Instead of staying safe in heaven from the pains that human beings inflict upon one another, Christ came and took them upon Himself. The cross of Christ shows us that God is capable of taking any amount of pain and transforming it into a blessing. Christ is always working as the Holy Mid-Wife to take the painful labors in your life and to birth blessings out of them. Before you and I can be resurrected, that is transformed by God’s love, we must first experience the crucifixion. We must lose to win. Our God said, “hey I’ll be the loser so that you be the winner for eternity.”
It’s important to realize that God does not delight in your suffering. God is always after you, not to punish you, but to love you. The divine perspective of God is at odds with the perspective of the fallen world. You and I have the choice to live our lives on the basis of our own perspective or the divine perspective. God will not force Himself upon us. When life gets rough it’s crucial that we continue to stay connected to a Christian community so that others can help us. When black clouds settle over your soul they can rob you of your spiritual motivation. You can feel no desire to press the buttons on your spiritual cell phone, to engage in spiritual practices, or to reach out for the helping hand that Jesus is offering. The community of faith helps us when we can’t help ourselves. We might not have the energy to pray, but people will pray with us. We might not have any idea what section of the Bible to read, but someone gives us a passage to look at. Just as God promises to never leave us or forsake us, such is the promise of authentic Christian community — the Church.
God is not in favor of suffering for the sake of suffering. Despite popular belief suffering is not inherently a means of “building character.” Suffering can warp the image of God in a human soul by taking away its inherent dignity. Suffering can lead people to acts of desperation that betray their own beliefs. The wonder of Christ’s act of love in dying on the Cross reveals us to that even death, pain, and suffering are not the final words in this life. Nor are they truly capable of blocking our connection to God. Our reception might get fuzzy during the dark days of our life. Yet, if we keep talking to God on our spiritual cell phone our faith will stay intact and surprise of surprises we may yet get a better signal than we did before.
God, who is the Master Playwright of the Universe, can take the worst turn of plot and transform it into a happier ending. Life seldom gives you the part you wanted to play. While God will get you through to the next scene, it may not be according to the storyline that you had wanted. The next time you flush royally mess up, or the next time trial and tribulation come your way, don’t be afraid to share your situation with Christ. He will hold your hand, look you in the eye and say “I know your pain, I’m crying with you, let’s get through this together.”