"I Have Been Here."
"Jesus is the light of the world, and he dies in darkness. That means that the darkness is not a place that incarnate Son of God doesn't know about. And so somewhere in the darkness it is possible--not easy, but possible--to reach out and find the cross saying, 'I've been here, I am here, I am with you."
I constantly come back to this quote by N.T. Wright. It's one of the key realities of the Jesus story that anchors my faith when I feel like I am being rocked in the raging seas that try to sink my vessel beneath the waves. It's the truth I turn to when others seek my counsel: Jesus knows my suffering.
It seems like a cold comfort when we are faced with grief or despair or anxiety of the future. It doesn't do anything to take the suffering away, nor does it do anything to answer the inevitable questions of "Why me?" or "Why now?"
The fact is, no answer to "Why?" would be any better. To the parent who has lost a child to tragedy, to the one whose spouse walks away after years of devotion, to the refugee whose home is ravaged by war, to a community rife with division, or the nation decimated by hunger, an intellectual answer to an existential question is simply trite, mitigating, and belittling to the pain they feel.
But I know what the answers aren't. It can't be that God doesn't love us, and it can't be that God dosen't care, and I know this because of what happened on this day two thousand years ago: that Jesus, the Son of Almighty God, died on a cross, beaten and scorned and alone. In those moments, Jesus didn't just take on the sin of the world, but he also took on all the pain and grief and despair that result from it. In those moments, the God of the universe endured the same anguish as the parent, the same loneliness as the spouse, the same alienation as the refugee, the same fracturing as the community, the same emtpiness as the hungry.
On the cross, Christ proved that God knows, that God cares, that God is present. He could have chosen another way, he could have been anywhere else in the world, and still he chose to carry that cross to the top of that hill and let the world do its worst.
Where ever you are, Christ has been there before, and he is meeting you there still. Your pain is great, but so is Christ's pain for you.
But unlike Christ on that Friday so long ago, you do not bear it alone.