by Paul Swearengin
if Jesus had pain and had to take it to the Father, that would mean it’s OK for you and me to feel pain and cry out to God, as well.
“You threw me into the depths, into the heart of the seas, and the current overcame me. All your breakers and your billows swept over me.”
The Bible has many passages dealing with a great depth of pain. In this passage, Jonah prayed in the depths of pain and said that God had thrown him into these depths. Yes, Jonah had made a bad decision to go a different direction than that which God had asked, but the Bible tells us that God had thrown him into the depths. When we go into the depths, or into dark/desert times in our lives, the question always comes - “Did I bring myself here or did God bring me here.” I would say from this passage, the answer is “both.”
In our culture that prizes understanding the radical Goodness of God and the idea that we are going from “glory to glory,” it makes understanding pretty difficult when we find ourselves walking in the middle of dark times rather than walking in glory. For a leader, it can be an embarrassing sense that we must have failed God to come to this place. It’s something we don’t talk about nearly enough.
Matthew 4:1 says “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know Jesus didn’t sin to lead himself into this situation so there was clearly something the father knew needed to happen in order for Jesus to walk fully into the power of his ministry. Hebrews 5:7 says “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.”
Jesus experienced rejection in his ministry like nobody else. He had Judas stealing money from the group fund, he had Peter constantly misunderstanding what Jesus was doing and he had people in his own hometown failing to believe in him and wanting to throw him off a cliff. Yes, Jesus was God in the flesh, but I believe, in the removing of his deity, he felt the very depth of that pain no differently than Jonah in Jonah Chapter 2 or David in the Psalms or the pain you or I might feel. The Bible tells us that Jesus would pray all night to the Father in heaven and I believe this passage in Hebrews and his prayer in Gethsemane demonstrate that at least some of those prayers were cries of agony over rejection and disdain from others. And if Jesus had pain and had to take it to the Father, that would mean it’s OK for you and me to feel pain and cry out to God, as well.
I’ve been blessed to not have known the death of a close family member at this point in my life, but I have faced loneliness, rejection and accusation at levels that have caused me to mourn deeply and cry out to God for help and healing. Often in this process, I have felt like I have failed because I am feeling the darkness of the pain more than running from glory to glory in a particular.
I am coming to realize that God has allowed my steps to lead me into these depths so I can learn something. I am learning that I need to lean into the pain. That only by feeling it and crying out to the one who can save me from death will I fully be able to put my trust in him and walk into the greater things he has for me. Romans 5:3-4 says, "...we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." The passage promises we won't be disappointed by leaning into the pain to see the outcome of the hope it will produce.
If you feel you are in the depths and not walking fully into his glory today, welcome to the club. You are amongst some of the greatest leaders in the history of the faith who have suffered the same path. And for some reason, it seems God requires it of us to fully see his glory.
So what do we do when we reach these ‘depths?’ Jonah, after recounting his painful process with the Lord, said this, “As my life was fading away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, to your holy temple… as for me, I will sacrifice to you with a voice of thanksgiving (Jonah 2:7, 9a CSB).” Jonah began to be thankful to the Lord, even in the dark circumstances and the passage goes on to tell us that once Jonah’s heart turned to thankfulness “then” the fish spit him out “on dry land.” So even as Jonah was moaning about his circumstances, God had already set him up for a soft landing from them.
You may be walking in the depths today and wondering where the Glory in your life is. But I declare today - be thankful, because God is already planning the solution and the way out for you. And his plan is to return you to the glory He has for you.