Shifting Shadows

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© 2017 Lynn Abbott

I had high hopes for the idyllic setting that would be our new home.

After all, there were plenty of potential buddies for my then seven-year-old son. In fact, my son brought the total count to 14 boys on our block.

A born leader, my son hatched some amazingly adventurous schemes; so much so, in fact, that boys considerably older than he sought his friendship.

However, a Saturday morning U-haul brought change by way of a sour-faced and scrappy new kid in “paradise.”

He swiftly demonstrated a decided dislike for my son.  Of course, if you know kids, you have already guessed what happened next.

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Yup. The bullying began within a matter of weeks.

I spoke with the scrappy boy’s parents and we determined that the boys should steer clear of one another. But despite our attempts to keep the boys apart, the bully continued his unapologetic attempts to sideline my seven-year-old.

Over time, many of my son’s friends drifted away, and sadly,  many neighborhood parents feared offending the boy’s parents; thus, my formerly friendly neighbors began to excuse the bully’s behavior.

The bullying intensified.

The tide had turned. What began with joy ended in heartbreak.

And although I clung to Romans 8:28, I couldn’t help but wonder, “How can God cause this situation to work for the good of this seven-year-old who truly loves Jesus?”

Indeed, we learn early… the crowd can be fickle.

The workplace? Fragile.

Friendships? Variable.

Relationships? Tenuous.

Popularity? Fleeting.

There is always that one: the gossip, the slanderer, the jealous, the back-stabber, and yes, the bully–one who wishes to tear down rather than build up…

We learn early… the crowd can be fickle.

Sometimes, pain comes from places we least expect. We bleed emotionally from unanticipated blows.

Maybe, you’ve been there. Perhaps, you walk that road today. You began with high hopes; your dreams have crumbled in the face of injustice.

There is One who understands. Scripture tells us that our Great High Priest sympathizes with our pain. Yes, God-incarnate walked such a road.

It’s shocking history, actually.

After all, Jesus exemplified unselfish love, mercy and grace. He loved the unlovable and healed disease and brokenness.

The resulting three years of extraordinary popularity certainly seemed unassailable. Despite the jealous venom of many religious leaders, Jesus’ fame grew. Thousands sought Him out.RockbridgeFarm_14x18Oil_LynnAbbott_For Digital Portfolio

He fed the five thousand. He healed the blind and lepers. He cast out demons. He raised the dead.

His entry into Jerusalem prior to Passover undeniably demonstrated the enormity of His influence.

Riding a donkey colt on that road into Jerusalem, He clearly announced his kingship. The people rejoiced in his arrival as the fulfillment  of Zechariah’s Messianic prophecy,(Zechariah 9:9).

On what is known as Palm Sunday, expectations soared. The people worshiped and cried, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord…” (Matthew 21:9).

Yet, on that Sunday road lined with palm branches, Christ did more than claim His identity as Messiah.

He boldly repeated His claim to be God: “He who believes in Me does not believe in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And he who behold Me beholds the One who sent Me, (John 12:44-45).

His words rocked the Jewish community.

And then,  Jesus also disappointed the people by speaking of His death and substitutionary atonement, (John 13: 27-33).

His words did not match the people’s hopes for a political king who would defeat Rome.

Sometimes,  pain comes from places we least expect.

And so their grumbling began.  And the religious leaders’ ongoing criticism of Christ gained traction, (John 12:37).

Judas, one of Jesus’ twelve closest friends, turned against the Savior.

Yeah, that’s right. A disillusioned disciple led the Roman guard and Jewish officers to Christ in Gethsemane.

In that quiet sanctuary, Judas betrayed Christ.

And shadows shifted.RockbridgeFarm_14x18Oil_LynnAbbott_For Digital Portfolio

Ironically, Judas betrayed Christ just five days after Christ’s triumphal Palm Sunday entry.

All seemed dark that Friday afternoon before the Passover Seder.

Christ, the lamb of God, sacrificed His life on the cross for the very people who rejected Him (Luke 23:34a).

Does He understand the pain of rejection?

Does He know how you or I feel when someone back-stabs or betrays us?

Does He care when we face rejection or even persecution for His name sake?

Yes. Infinitely so.

As the writer of the book of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin…” (Hebrews 4:15).

Unquestionably, Friday was dark. But Yahweh had a plan bigger than you or I could ever conceive.

Sunday was coming.

The Lamb of God’s sacrifice on that Passover Friday enabled our salvation. In addition, Paul tells us that God the Father exalted Christ and that every knee will bow, acknowledging Christ as Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).

Quite frankly, the Gospel itself demonstrates that “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him…” (Romans 8:28).

If God could bring such good out of history’s darkest Friday, then He certainly can bring good out of the shadows that you and I face.

He can.

He will.

He has promised, (Romans 8:28).

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” ~James 1:17