God Wants More of Us
March 31, 2016
46: …“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”….50: And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
-Matthew 27:46, 50
When I was diagnosed with cancer, my first thoughts paralleled Matthew 46. I cried out in silence with words I could not voice, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” I can identify with feeling utterly bereft, alone, lacking salvation, feeling unworthy, and questioning God’s intent. My neat “to-do” list of “appropriate Christian behavior and morality” was shattered. Bad things happen to good people. While I would never admit it to anyone, I kind of felt there was yardstick governing who was saved and not saved. It made God’s grace very black and white when there is a list of those that meet the qualifications and those that do not. As a Type-A individual, I can live and die by a list of expectations I need to accomplish in order to meet a goal. I am sure I am not the only one who has looked at the Ten Commandments as a checklist of behavior, thinking they were one of the “chosen.” I had to realize that there was not a list of criteria I needed to meet to be saved from bad things happening. The human condition applies to both Christians and non-Christians in an indiscriminate fashion. Bad things happen.
While I think there are very few things that I MUST do (Love God, Love my Neighbor) as a Christian, my salvation comes from God’s grace alone. I grapple with this every day. There is no list that I need to complete. God gives grace and salvation freely. It is my choice to give up my list, my desire for control, and my misconceptions about a list of requirements and accept that grace.
In order for me to live with my cancer, I had to give up my spirit. I had to let go of all my expectations and trust utterly in God. There was neither rhyme nor reason for my disease. All the medical theories left me feeling emptier, and more culpable in my diagnosis, than they provided comfort. Even while discussing all the possible courses of action, I was left unsure, afraid, used-up, and confused. At this point, I was simply reacting. I was still stuck in “Why, why, why, have you forsaken me?” For some reason, my cancer made me feel unworthy of God’s grace.
As I read further into this passage of Matthew, Jesus cried out once again. Jesus cries out the words of Psalm 22 as a plea for deliverance from suffering, his plea takes on the sins of the world so when we are in union with God, suffering is no more.
Jesus, then gave up his spirit. In the NRSV version, it states Jesus breathed his last. With Jesus’ last breath, he sent up a plea for deliverance from suffering for us all. Psalm 22 further tells us that God promises us deliverance when we trust in the Lord. It tells us that when we cry to God, God saves us. It tells us that God does not hide from the afflicted. God is with us in suffering.
I came to realize to truly accept the grace I have without any works of my own that I had to release my spirit. I was clutching desperately at trying to be in charge of my illness, to force expectations, and to drive my own agenda. It was leaving me miserable. I needed to breathe out my spirit and let go of my anxiety, worry, and fear to God. When I cried out to God, God delivered me. When I let go of my spirit, God keeps it shielded from suffering.
There may have been an “ah-ha” moment with this scripture, but it is far more difficult in action on a daily basis. I am a flawed human and it is easy to slip back in to patterns where I desire to be in control. Some days, breathing out my spirit happens minute by minute.
C.S. Lewis tells us that once we commit to God, God wants more of us. There is never enough of us that God wants. He wants it all. This tends to create a perception that we can measure what “all of” entails. There is not a measuring stick, nor a checklist. “All of us” means all of us. God’s grace applies to every single cell of our being, not just our actions.
I get anxious about giving up all of me. There is a control factor in my personality that requires me to consciously release it. There is a part of me that worries constantly about my health, my kids, my family, the world, and the future that no amount of prayer seems to keep in check. When this anxiety creeps up, I must breathe out my spirit. When I breathe my spirit to God, hope follows in its place. God has delivered me from my suffering.
I take great comfort that Jesus also cried out, and when he breathed his spirit and breathed his last, trusting fully in God, it created the path to eternal life for us all. It is through Jesus that we learn to trust in the Lord our God, breathe out our spirit, and find the path to eternal salvation and peace.
What measuring stick do you use for your behavior and justification of your personal salvation?
What expectations of your faith, life, and salvation do you need to let go in order to find peace?
What things help (or hinder) you “breathe your spirit to God?”