Lama Sabachtani

Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachtani?

“Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?
Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalms 10:1)

Jesus Walking On Water

Remember that time Jesus told the disciples to get in their boat and sail off without him in the middle of a storm? Or when God let Satan take away Job’s wealth, kill his children and give him an incurable disease? Or that time Jeremiah was thrown into the public stocks and mocked so much he cursed the very day he was born? Yes sure, Jesus walked on water, Job was given even more than was taken from him and Jeremiah was released from prison when all his prophecies came true. That is all great but these were people of God. They followed Him, preached His word and held His commandments. Still, God allowed them to suffer. I know I am not alone in wondering why victory in the Bible is always preceded by pain, fear and failure. Must we always fight for a win? Must there be a flood before every rainbow?

We find it difficult to talk about suffering, especially suffering of the heart, mind and soul. Of the hundreds of ‘how are you?’ we are asked on a Sunday, maybe one response will be a ‘bit stressed at the moment but all is good thank God’ accompanied by some very eager nodding and a quick break in eye contact. We’re ashamed of our struggles, we like to paint a picture of perfection, we insist we are ‘OK’. The truth is, sometimes we associate suffering with a lack of the presence of God. The truth is, sometimes we get so lost in the dark that we believe our God - our Way, our Truth and our Light - has forgotten us. Where is He? Why is He allowing me this pain? Why why why? Maybe this is due to a fundamental lack of understanding of what suffering is and why we go through it. I mean, isn’t suffering a product of sin and disobedience? Jonah was swallowed by a whale for running from God. Samson was blinded and imprisoned when he forsook Gods call and married a Philistine chick. Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead when they lied about giving all their money to the apostles’ cause. Adam and Eve, forbidden fruit, exile from Eden – it makes sense, right? Or maybe suffering is a test of faith. Maybe God needs to reassure Himself that we don’t just love and believe in Him in the good times, but also through the bad times. Or perhaps like everything in in this world we need to earn our way through life. Nothing comes for free and Gods price for happiness is to watch us stumble a little bit. No? None of these sound right? I guess suffering is not a consequence, a test or a price to pay. Maybe suffering is all part of a plan devised just for us, preparing us for something amazing.

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

Yes, after defeat came victory. Yes, battles were lost but wars were won. The people feared, cities starved, dictators ruled, disciples were imprisoned, prophets wished they were never born but in the end walls came crashing down, manna rained down from the sky, nations repented, Christ is risen - but let’s look at what really matters here. Because when you are sinking in the stormy waters, when you are in the whale’s belly and everything is dark it can be near impossible to remember, let alone believe, that there is something better on the other side. You’re too busy gasping for air, it’s too dark to see, you’ve got no energy left to hope. However, if we only have the strength to cling onto one thing, let it be our confidence in God’s love for us. We are no different to the great kings, prophets and disciples that God called to His service. Planted in each one of us is a seed of victory. Yes, in life we are buried in the ground, trampled on, drowned with water, made to endure heat and wind and rain, but we forget that God created these things not to harm us, but to give us what we need to grow. Buy a packet of seeds, leave it lying unopened on your kitchen counter and watch what happens - nothing.

I’m not suggesting we bask in our pain and enjoy times of stress and anxiety. We are human and if anyone understands that, it is our Creator. What I will say is this; hold onto the faith that whatever trials you go through, God has only allowed a level of suffering you can endure – suffering that makes you, not breaks you. Jesus did not stick the disciples in a storm to walk on water and show off. He did it in anticipation of their ministry, to show them (and us) that with him they can calm the raging seas and walk over all that troubles them. Job’s trials taught him (and us) that suffering is not a form of punishment, but that divine justice always prevails. God only allows pain that prepares you for the victory He has planned for you, trials that lead you to a path that has been paved out just for you. Sometimes it’s an uphill climb but He is there walking with you, carrying you in His arms, saying “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).

You are a growing seed, a diamond in the making. Whatever waters you’re swimming through - whether it is stress, anxiety, depression, bereavement, poor health - when you reach the shore and take your first breath, it will all seem worth it. And you will reach the shore, for you are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Be patient and find strength through Christ your Saviour. It will all make sense in time. You will never again fear the waters.

“For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  (Jeremiah 29:11)

St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church in London is one of the oldest Coptic churches in the lands of the immigration, and one of the first to be supported and cared for by our beloved patriarch, HH the late Pope Shenouda III.

  • St Mark's Coptic Orthodox Church
    Allen Street, Kensington
    London W8 6UX