14 April 2020

Isolated, but never Forsaken

Dear Church Family,

We are in the third week of lockdown this week and some are really feeling the frustration and perhaps loneliness of being isolated. 

One of the marvellous aspects of our gospel is that we have a saviour who, as the writer to the Hebrews says does, “empathise with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). This means that whatever difficulties we are feeling right now, Jesus knows how it feels. Not only that, in his perfection, he knows what you feel to the fullest extent. And as we come to think on the cross (Good Friday is this week), we can see how Jesus understands isolation.

On the cross Jesus suffered isolation. This was from his fellow Jews, who had arranged his murder, from the soldiers and others who mocked him, and from his disciples who had deserted him. But most of all we see this isolation as His Father turns his back on him. This is described in the gospels. Mark 15:33-34 says:

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

The darkness over the land is pointing to the fact that Jesus is bearing the weight of sin - or in the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Jesus becomes “sin for us”. At this moment the Father, from whom sin separates us, forsakes his Son who is being treated as a sinner. The word “forsaken” means to be totally abandoned and left alone - the most extreme form of isolation imaginable. 

As we saw on Sunday, Jesus took this punishment, this abandonment, so that we can be in a relationship with God. In other words, he was forsaken so we never have to be. So whilst we may be feeling the pain of isolation at the moment, we are never really alone. Because Jesus was forsaken we have God with us all the time. There are lots of verses in scripture that are on this theme of God being with us. One such is in a prayer Paul prays for Christians in Ephesus (and should be our prayer for each other too). In Ephesians 3:16-17 Paul prays:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”

Jesus lives in us, dwelling/living in our hearts through faith (also see Galatians 2:20). The experience of this dwelling is by the power and presence of God the Holy Spirit, which is given to those who have been forgiven of their sin through Jesus. 

But how can we experience this, even when we are feeling isolated? There are times when we go through periods of spiritual darkness or depression, where the feelings we experience are not the truths of the gospel. It is during these times when we need to keep reminding ourselves of the gospel. So force yourself to read scripture, pray through it, and listen to the gospel message. Listen to good Christian music that reminds you of gospel truth. Perhaps the most practical thing you can do this week is tune in to the live stream services, joining with your brothers and sisters in this, as we remember the cross and resurrection this weekend.

We may feel isolated, but praise God we are never forsaken. As we read many times in the Bible:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with youhe will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

With much love and prayers,
Steve