“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” – Isaiah 53:4
For Easter, this year, our pastor preached a series from Isaiah 53, where the prophet foretells, more than 700 years in advance, details of the crucifixion. In addition to the striking physical specifics, the passage details the spiritual and emotional ramifications of the events that happened that afternoon. It is, at the very least, an amazing passage, worth reading for the details of the prophecy.
A few weeks ago, as I was doing the study that I like to read through during the season of Lent, I came across this verse. I haven’t read through the study in several years, mostly because life has just been busy, and Lent hasn’t been a top priority. This year, though, our boys are old enough to begin to understand some of the reasons to observe, so we decided to teach them about the season. Since I was focusing on it, I remembered to dig out the book. (Yes, that’s my confession: the last several years, I haven’t had the forethought to dig the book out at the beginning of the Lenten season.)
At any rate, as I was saying, I was reading through the study, and came across a reference to this verse. It’s a verse that I know well, part of a passage I have been familiar with for many years. I can quote most of the passage by heart. But that verse, this time, was like a slap across the face. “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…”
I won’t lie; I’ve been struggling, over the last few months. There have been a lot of things going on, but the long and short of it is that I’ve been struggling. So, when I read that verse, it hit a little too close to home. I was feeling my griefs and sorrows quite sharply. In fact, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by them. And there was more than a little anger blending in. It was getting pretty heavy. I was being weighed down. And I was sinking.
“Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” I responded in anger, when I read those words. I was sinking and here was someone saying that the weight that was pushing me down had already been taken away! How dare they!
One of the things I’ve learned, over a lifetime of learning to walk by faith, that never ceases to amaze me, is that God always wants us to be real. In the Old Testament, He never rebukes the children of Israel (or anyone else, for that matter) for being angry with Him. He chastises those who offer sacrifices without sincerity, and those whose worship doesn’t include the heart, but never those who are honest with Him. And the thing is, He doesn’t have anything to hide. If we’re angry, the best thing to do is to just be honest with Him, and He’ll help us work it out. Scripture tells us to “Be angry and sin not”, so we know that it’s not wrong to have the feelings He built into us.
I get angry at God fairly often. Obviously, my life hasn’t been a series of beautiful picnics and walks in the park. It hasn’t been a living nightmare, or anything, but there have been a lot of painful experiences – just like everyone else’s lives. Anyway, I find that, when I get angry with Him, I can resist, but only for so long. The silent treatment doesn’t affect Him much (it just affects me), and it doesn’t solve anything. So, eventually, I always end up “talking” it out with Him. I find that my life tends to be smoother if I do it sooner, rather than later, but I don’t always go that route.
Anyway, when I read Isaiah’s words, I took it to God. I was angry, but it was between Him and me. I wanted to know: If He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, why was I grieving so intensely? Why were my sorrows, this heavy weight that was burying me, still so heavy? If someone has already taken them, how could I still feel them so much? I know that God doesn’t lie, and He’s never wrong, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like the way it is. And, sometimes, I just don’t understand.
So, He explains things to me, in a way that my heart understands. That night, when I was accusing Him of leaving me with what He was supposed to have taken, His still, small voice spoke loud and clear. And I was left with nothing to say. I was struck with one thought: how can anyone take what I haven’t let go of?
A lot of people say that Christianity is simple, but not easy. In Job 42:5, after actually speaking with God, Job says: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” In John 3, Jesus spent hours talking with Nicodemus about spiritual birth. There is a very subtle difference between knowledge and understanding, but it makes all the difference. Knowing that Jesus has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” is not the same as understanding that I don’t have to. It’s not just about letting go, either. Just letting go implies that something is gone. My griefs and sorrows aren’t gone. I just don’t have to carry them. Someone else has them.
As many times as I have read Isaiah’s prophecy, foretelling the striking, specific details of Christ’s crucifixion, I have never taken as much comfort as this year. It is an amazing and overwhelming thing that Christ has taken my sins and my punishment on Himself – indeed, it is the very thing that my salvation is founded on. There have been times, in my life, when my sins have weighed heavily on me. But I have never felt a weight lifted like I felt this year. He took so much more than just my sin – that alone would be overwhelming; He took every consequence of my fallenness – all of my sin, my death, my corruptible body, my grief, my sorrow, my separation, my inability, my weakness, everything. And all of it died with Him. All I have to do is let it go. Someone else has it.
And then, as if all of that weren’t enough, He took it somewhere else, He left it, and He came back! When Christ died for us, it was simple: a substitution. But it was so much more than that. It was a preview. My body, my self, my life is not perfect. But it will be. It will be! And I can have confidence in that, because He gave me proof: He rose from the dead! He lives! And it will be!