“A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone.”
For many Christians around the world, the season of Lent begins with the service of Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is really a worship service of lament. Jesus’s words in John 16 include this theme of lament as well. In verse 32, Jesus is telling his friends and partners in ministry that they will abandon him. Ash Wednesday reminds us that the Easter story is preceded by abandonment. The whole season of Lent is a reminder that Jesus experienced and understands abandonment and betrayal.
In fact, it isn’t just the Easter story, but the entire biblical narrative that includes stories of betrayal. Beginning with Adam and Eve turning away from God, followed by the history of the always-fickle Israelites making golden calves and cursing God when they lose faith, and culminating in the cruel torture of the Messiah on the cross — betrayal and abandonment are common themes in the biblical story.
So, as we recognize in this season of Lent, we have the opportunity to realize our need of a God who understands the abandonment in our stories and the scars they have left behind. We can embrace with gratitude this Jesus who took on scars for our sake. We long for the Spirit’s comfort and strength as we journey through seasons of abandonment, betrayal, and lament. Thus, Lent becomes a season, not just for certain Christians that are more familiar with it or for super-Christians who readily fast from chocolate or who add on impressive spiritual disciplines. No, Lent is for all Christians who know that our world is broken that we are all in need of Savior who can make the wrong things ultimately right.
Philip Yancey reminds us of this longing to see hope amidst apparent desolation as he points out the fact that the Romans’ cruelest execution device became the Christian symbol used universally by His followers — the cross! Can you imagine Christians today wearing electric chairs around their necks? But that’s what the cross is!
Jesus says in John 12:32-33: “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.” At the cross, what appears to be the silence of God abandoning the Messiah is actually the gateway for God’s beautiful salvation to come to you and me. Lent, therefore, becomes a season where we purposely focus on areas where we feel abandoned, betrayed, and perhaps persecuted, knowing that God can take the worst of things and make something redemptive out of them. If he can do it with the cross, he can still do it in our lives as well.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Is Lent a season that you grew up recognizing? Are you able to recognize some struggles you are experiencing right now? Are those struggles related to abandonment, betrayal or persecution as a leader? Does God seem more silent during these struggles or can you readily sense his presence and support?
Lord, Jesus, in this season of Lent I want to focus on your faithfulness amidst so much persecution from enemies and friends who abandon. Please take my scars and give me hope that with you there is ultimate healing and strength to move forward. Help me to be the kind of leader who models leaning on you in my weakness so that your strength may be revealed. I want to more readily turn to you in this season of Lent as I prepare for the glorious truth of Easter that was made possible by your sacrificial leadership. Amen.