A Lesson from the Cross We Don’t Always Think About

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Easter weekend always brings a sense of spring, good weather, celebration, family, and food. Alright, these days sometimes the weather is not all the greatest around. But Easter brings up thoughts of chocolate, hard boiled and dyed eggs, leg of lamb and family gatherings.

In the Christian church the focus is on Jesus, the cross, His sacrifice, His rising, and His love. In a time of celebration, the church has been lifting up Jesus every year for centuries for His acceptance of an experience that has gone down in history as one of the most profound acts of sacrificial love ever known to humankind.

I have been so contemplative recently, as I meditated on the cross and what Jesus endured that day on Calvary’s mountain. I let my mind wander to the scene in the garden when Jesus prayed, sweat and cried, with blood, and anguish. He knew He was going to be crucified. Did He want this? Who would? We know He did not in his words, “Father please take this cup from me.” Following those words were the bravest surrender that humankind has ever known. He said, “but if it be Your will Father…”

This whole scene brought me to the point of this message. Jesus was completely willing to move head on right into one of the most graphic death scenes one could ever imagine. His problem loomed before Him. His choices were completely His to make. He could have called upon the angels and He could have been saved from the fate that awaited Him. Instead, He chose to not side-step the issue, but to face it, embrace the lesson, the experience, and the outcome. With trust and faith, Jesus carried the cross He would soon die upon down a road that most would never have chosen to take. No one saved Him from this fate, not even Himself. Beaten down and torn from whipping and lashing, He still moved forward and faced what He had prayed to not have to do.

My point? As humans, it seems like most of us would do anything to avoid pain. Usually we turn to something that comforts us; a habit or diversion from the issue. We turn to food, money, shopping, drugs, alcohol, sex, and the list goes on. We like to do anything that will take the sting out of what we see ahead of us. Instead of facing it head on, we seek to dull our senses, take on the wound, and forsake the healing or “rising”. We forget that pain is a part of life. We forget the lesson from the cross that pain comes before the rising and there is no shortcut, and nothing that can dull our senses enough to change this truth.

How many of us can think back and know for sure had we faced our issues head on without trying to divert from the problem, we would have come through with healing to our hearts and the rising would have come afterward? The honest truth is the only way to our personal rising is to face every problem, every pain, and every situation, head on with dignity. Our words should be, “If it be Your will Father…”  The reality is without facing and walking through the painful part, there is no healing. We want to not “feel”. Since when did feeling become so hard? It’s not pleasant for sure, but the rewards are great.

I thought about the death of my own son. My mind went back in time to the days, nights, and lonely moments in my own garden of anguish. For me, there was no sudden healing, no escape, no shortcut. I did not deaden my pain with alcohol, drugs, food, or anything else. Honestly, there would be nothing that could help me or make me feel any better. There was no side stepping the pain. It just “was”, and sometimes still “is”. When others want to know how I survived the loss of my 20 year old son, my answer always has to be, “I faced it head on with God and God alone”. It was the only way I knew I could survive with some form of wholeness left in tact.

As I continued to meditate this week, I thought of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In days gone by, I wondered how she survived watching her son die. Now I know. She was right there, front and center. She faced the pain head on and when it was over, she privately processed the pain. There was no side stepping, and no numbing the feeling or senses. Only she could have been chosen for the part she played in the most dramatic death scene one could imagine. She survived afterward, and so did I. Was life the same? Of course not, it had dramatically changed forever.

The lesson is there, in the message of the cross. Facing our greatest fears and greatest pain with dignity, faith, and determination is the only way to heal from anything. There is no side stepping this truth. The outcome might not be known to us. We have to take the steps down the road, just as Jesus did toward Calvary. We have to carry our load, but ironically it’s the only way our load can ever be taken from us or off of us. The burden is lighter when we understand there is a reason. The task is endurable when we remember the pain always has to be endured before we rise. No exception. Its truth.

Loving you from here,

Dr. Rev Jenine Marie Howry

Are You Depressed About the Coming Holidays?

downloadWe are approaching that time of year where the festive commercials come on with the picture of families all together before tables filled with food, laughter, and smiles. We are also entering the Christmas zone when we all will face the bombarding of advertisements tempting us to buy certain gifts for family members and the latest greatest toys available to intrigue our children.

I remember those days when I was younger. The anticipation of food, gifts, tree lights, and new warm slippers. It all paints a pretty picture. Of course this year things are a bit different because a lot of us have been warned that to say “Merry Christmas” violates some human rights. I’m pretty sure that is not true, but for some reason that is what part of our country wants to present this year. I imagine the commercials will take on a new feel as “Happy Holidays” will take over. Unfortunately this will not change much about the holy celebrations that are about to take place. The very word “holiday” means “holy day”.

I want to get to my point before I get off on a tangent about the renaming of Christmas! As a look back upon our annual celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus, there have been amazing times and those which were filled with grief and depression. For instance, the first Christmas after my son went to heaven was one I wish I could have avoided. For many, the upcoming holidays are just reminders of what we are missing instead of what we have. I would love to turn it around for you all and tell you to focus on what you are grateful for. While this is the best practice, I also know there are seasons when we are grateful but there are also circumstances when there can be deep sadness.

Not every elderly person has family around. Not every child looks forward to gifts with a gleam in their eyes. Some service men and women are far away from their loved ones and would give anything for just the gift of a hug this season. Being far from loved ones is  a hard thing to face. Along with the holy part of the holidays we turn our faces to God, the one who made us and keeps us through every day of every year. In the face of sadness, depression, loneliness, and separation, we are confronted with a love that comes from heaven that begs to heal us. There are some pains that all the alcohol, pills, well wishes, far away phone calls, and sparkling gifts will not heal or even appease.

Before I get you into a downer here, I have to say this is hard enough to write let alone know it will come across negative, but it is truth. Not everyone will have a “Happy New Year” celebration. For those who are hurting, its almost like a triple cocktail of unwanted reminders that something is just not right this season. If this is YOU, then my heart reaches for you. I’ve been there, I know that achy feeling deep inside that won’t stop nagging that something hurts beyond anyone’s control. If this is YOU, God’s heart also reaches for you. He understands the feelings of loss and the grief that comes from being alone, lost, angry, hurt, rejected, less than feeling blessed.

I am awake very early in the morning writing this, so I know that God is already concerned for you. His heart is with you and He wants to ease your distress with the comfort of His Holy Spirit. He is called “the comforter” and He completely understands. Remember that baby Jesus was born in a barn, was different than everyone around Him, was scorned by His own family members, was taunted by religious law leaders, was hated by those who feared what He might change, was misrepresented by those who thought He was here to start a revolution, was betrayed by one He dearly loved, was murdered by those who misunderstood Him. Still today, this world begs to push Him away; to keep Him even out of the celebration of His own birth. Maybe they can’t find his birth certificate. (Ok, that one was bad, lol).

If the upcoming holy days are already beginning to tax your heart, I want you to know you are not alone. Not only is Jesus with you, and all, but there are those who care about your difficult struggle during a time that should be a blessed celebration with those we love. Be assured that Jesus has been near you all year long and will remain through any of your days. He will never forsake you and He completely understands your pain and depressive moments.

If you are reading this and already know that you are one who will be needing someone to talk to, please know you have someone you can put a voice to. You can call my toll free number and please leave a message for a call back for a talk and prayer session if there is no immediate answer. I WILL get back to you. Depression and sadness should not have to happen during the holidays, but it is NORMAL when it does. We are human; all of us.

For talk/prayer call 800-421-1765. You don’t even have to wait for the holidays to come. You can start now if you need to. Life is HARD but it is so much harder when faced alone  feeling no one understands. I can tell you this though. It will be ok. Whatever it is you face might be hurtful, might cause depression, might feel lonely, but it will be ok. This too shall pass. I admire your strength, your tenacity, your ability to be resilient, and I honor your pain for whatever reason it might be haunting you.

Don’t forget to call. It WILL help. I love you to heaven and back! (Something I tell my children).

Pastor Jenine Marie Howry

800-421-1765