Given the time of year and it’s significance to believers the world over I wonder how many of you looked at the title and immediately thought, “Oops Kevin you made a typo in your title in respect of the spelling of ‘Week’.”
Hey, it’s an understandable assumption But the truth is that it is not a typo and I deliberately chose to use the word weak and indeed to write this post at this time because it seems so appropriate and is so on my heart right now.
Holy Week in the Christian’s calendar is the time when perhaps more than any other time we remember Christ’s arrest, trial, torture, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ultimately His ascension.
But if I may, for the purpose of this post, I would like to invite you to reflect with me on just one aspect of that time – that time after Christ was crucified and before he rose again.
You meet a man who claims to be the Son of God and who changes your life in a radical and unmistakable way. You dedicate your life to Him and He rightly becomes the very center, and in many ways, the very focus of your life.
You spend all of your time with Him, eat with Him, talk with Him, travel with Him. You witness and share in His deep love and compassion for people, see Him speak prophesy, heal the sick, give sight to the blind and mobility to the lame. You witness first hand the miracles and wonders that He performs and you believe with all you heart that “truly He IS the Son of God” and “truly the Kingdom of God is upon us!”
This ‘Son of God’, this ‘Promised One’, this ‘Messiah’, this ‘Saviour of the World’ was; betrayed by one of your own, arrested, tortured, placed on trial, and then crucified!
“Will He come down off the cross?”, “Will God smite His enemies and rescue Him?”, “Will the heavens open and God Himself speak?”, “Does this sudden darkness mean God is about to act?” These are all understandable questions aren’t they? Realistic expectations?
But no. None of that happens? Instead He dies and is taken away and buried in a tomb.
As suddenly as He came into your life, He is gone from it.
All that is left is a sealed tomb and an empty cross!
All that you are left with are questions and a deep longing in your heart”
How would you feel? What thoughts and questions would flood through your mind? What would you do?
Go to that tomb? Wait for something to happen? Perhaps return to that now empty cross – standing there simply looking at it with so many thoughts, so many questions, so many emotions flowing through your heart and mind?
What now? What comes next? Surely that can’t be it? Surely it doesn’t end here? Surely something else has to come? Surely there must be more? Surely this newness must continue!
Step forward in time with me, if you will, to more recent years. 1985 and a young 23 year old man. A young man who had believed in God all his life and indeed who could never remember a time when he did not believe in God.
And yet somehow that wasn’t enough and he knew it. Somehow knowing there was a God but not having a relationship with God left a void in his heart, an emptiness, a sense of “there must be more to life.”
It would spend two weeks in local school and village halls and then 4 weeks in a 4000 seated Circus tent.
Every night there would be a service with praise and worship, a guest artist, a sermon/bible teaching delivered by the evangelist Eric Delve and then an invitation to respond and invite Christ into your life and to have a living relationship with God through Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
I had a lot of time on my hands in those days and so for the first two weeks I was heavily involved as a steward, traveling to all the venues and helping out. Then when it moved into the Circus tent I took on the role of security coordinator.
For four weeks I, along with other volunteers in my team slept, ate, worked and served in that tent and every night we would be part of the ministry and service.
It became my life. The more I heard about this Christ, the more I wanted, needed to know Him and to serve Him. The more involved I was the more involved I wanted and needed to be.
I was letting Him into my heart and giving my life to Him and I knew it, felt it, needed it, lived it.
Finally on the last night of the mission I too responded to the alter call and went forward. I wanted to make that public confession and witness that I too had given my life to the Lord.
The evangelical team, counseling team, worship team, stewarding team, security team – everyone left and returned to their normal lives and to their home churches.
The circus tent came down was packed up and taken away and I returned to my one-roomed apartment and to, well to, to what exactly? What was next?
My life, my heart, my faith had been so full of Christ for those previous six weeks but then the focus of that fullness, the
I remember so clearly going back, a few days later, to the site where the circus tent had been and standing, staring at the huge empty circus of different colored foot-trodden grass where the tent had been.
Just as the disciples could have stood before the site of that empty cross all those years before, there stood I before the empty site of that mission – asking similar questions – searching for similar answers…
“What now? What comes next? Surely that can’t be it? Surely it doesn’t end here? Surely something else has to come? Surely there must be more? Surely this newness must continue!”
In truth I a have spoken about two very real and very specific episodes of doubt and of questioning. Understandable doubt and understandable questioning – one in the life of the disciples and one in my own personal life.
But of course many of us face times of doubt don’t we? Times of question? Times when perhaps the faith that we once had does not seem so real so vital as once it did?
And my personal experience is that for many of us who face challenges and difficulties with our mental health, times of doubt and questions and indeed times when the troubles of life seem to become overwhelming and get in the way of our faith are quiet frequent and normal. But doe that make us weak? Does that mean we are not Holy?
Indeed is there, can there, be such a thing as the Holy Weak?
Well I for one am convinced that there can and are those who are both Holy and who experience times of spiritual weakness.
Mark 9:24 – 24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (NIV)
Romans 8:26 – 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (NIV)
Matthew 5:3 – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
Yes I am convinced that there are those who do experience times of spiritual weakness for whom Holiness is still a part of their lives or can still be part of their lives. And what is more I am convinced that that Holiness is not taken from up when we face times of weakness but instead is afforded to us in greater measure when we face those times of weakness by calling on the name of the Lord and giving it to God in prayer.
Earlier, in what I now freely admit has become a fairly lengthy post, I shared about the first time when that spiritual weakness was faced by me. Shortly after I came to know Christ in fact. But there have been many other time when I have faced such weaknesses, such times of trouble and trial – such times of doubting and questioning.
And I am sure that there are others for whom that is also true – especially within the mental health community – and sadly often as a result of the way others within the body of Christ have treated us.
But I want to encourage you – you who, like me consider yourself at times to be part of the Holy weak and especially at this time – this Holy week.
“I will not leave you as orphans…” (John 14:18 NIV). These are the words Christ Himself spoke to the disciples when He was telling them of His having to leave and when He was (unbeknown to them) talking about that arrest, torture, trial, crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension that we spoke of earlier and which is so prominent in our hearts and minds at this time of year.
No matter how weak we may feel, no matter how un-holy our lives may have become, no matter how hurt or down-trodden we believe ourselves to be, I am convinced that God does not want us to either feel as orphans, live as orphans or be orphans.
Christ promised – in that same conversation with His disciples – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for His disciples – for the believers. That same promise is, I am convinced and have personally experienced, available to each and every one of us who have made that commitment to Christ.
So the question I ask you is – do you feel orphaned? Are you living as an orphan? Have you let the hurts and troubles of life and any personal spiritual weakness that you have felt rob you of knowing the fullness of God’s love through that relationship with Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit?
Because if you have, I am convinced and certain that this is not what God – our heavenly Father desires for you.