No Answers? Jesus Blesses You

Some days Easter is hard to take.

Easter has passed. For a few days my Facebook and Twitter feeds were a cascade of happy, enthusiastic pictures. Choirs with arms raised high. Pastors declaring the end of death and offer of salvation. I saw just about all the stock pictures of tombs with the stone rolled away that there are.

I’m not faulting the enthusiasm of Christians over Easter. I mean, if what we believe is true, then this holiday commemorates the moment that changed everything. Sin and Death are dead! We don’t have to be bound by judgment or shame or fear. We can live in this world with an optimism that surpasses our circumstances. That’s an incredibly hopeful story.

But I know that the pastel happiness of Easter isn’t always welcome – even for people who believe in Jesus’ resurrection. What if, in this season, your personal story isn’t all that hopeful? The wave of Christian happiness can overwhelm. You’re trying to hold onto your belief in God’s power of the resurrection while sadness or disappointment threatens to drag you back out into the deep.

Being told, one more time, that you ought to just trust God – that you ought to just put all your worries “at the foot of the cross…” Well, you nod in agreement but inside you feel wobbly, weak, worried.

Honestly, you want the bright colors and glory rays of Easter to flood your life. But in this moment, that’s just not the color palette of your heart.

You’ve got questions. Maybe you’ve been dealing with a death or a loss, perhaps of a dream, a person, or of hope. Maybe you’re grieving. Even though you believe in God-made-man come among us, even though you believe in the powerful cross and the even more important empty tomb, (even though!), you still find yourself with hard questions.

Easter is good theology, but there are days when it’s really hard to practice.

I just don’t believe it! (At least I feel like I don’t.)

If that’s your story, I want you to know that Jesus has not left you in that place alone. There’s a brief interaction toward the end of the Easter story. It’s often overlooked or just left out, but it holds God’s promise for the broken-hearted, the doubting, the ones for whom Easter just doesn’t feel real.

It comes after the crucifixion, after Jesus’ friends had run and hid. It was after his resurrection, after the women had found the tomb empty and got the message: “He’s alive. He’ll meet you in Galilee.” A few of Jesus’ apprentices and friends were gathered in the same upper room where they shared that last Passover meal. Still hiding. And yet, even though the door was locked, Jesus walked right in!

Like so often happens in life, the guy who really needed it most wasn’t there. Thomas missed it. Maybe he was out buying groceries or just needed to take a walk and clear his head. Maybe he was asking God why all of this had happened. But he missed it.

Of course when he got back, everyone told him. I bet he felt like he lost the lottery that day. With frustration and a little bitterness, he declared, “I don’t believe it! Unless I see the marks in his hands, I will not believe it.”

That’s sort of the dividing line for Easter. For some people it feels like the moment of seeing. When you see who Jesus is and what Jesus has done? When you really see it, you’ve got to celebrate! But then you’re around people who didn’t see it. And your celebration? It’s hard for them. Then an incredible act of mercy unfolds. First for Thomas, and then for you. You can catch the whole story in John 20:24-29.

A week later, they were gathered again, and this time Thomas was with them. Even though they were still hiding, Jesus walked in again. He gave Thomas one of the most direct answers to prayer we see in scripture. He walked over to Thomas and told him:

Look at my hands. Look at my side. Touch my wounds. It’s what you asked for.”

Of course Thomas believed; He saw.

That is not the end of the story. Jesus responded to Thomas, but then he reached out past Thomas and spoke to you. Jesus said:

Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”

What if you don’t get an answer?

Thomas had missed his chance to see, and was left with frustration and questions. Yet, he got his chance. Jesus walked in and he got to see. In that moment, Thomas (for all of his questions) joined in the Easter celebration. Thomas was a doubter, but Thomas got his questions answered. With that answer, he was able to see and accept God’s presence in his life.

Yay for him! Not everyone gets Thomas’ experience. Some of us get no answers.

We might think that the opposite of Thomas is people who just don’t doubt. They believe God from the beginning. They trust. They don’t fear. That’s not the case. The opposite of Thomas are the people who have questions, who struggle, and who never get those questions answered. Yet, they still choose to trust Jesus.

That’s the blessing in Jesus’ words. He affirms Thomas for coming around, but he also acknowledges that this won’t happen for everyone. The people who don’t get to see, they still have to choose whether to trust. So, Jesus blesses those people. He blesses you. He says:

Those people who don’t get to see, who never have their questions answered, those people still choose to believe — those people are blessed.”

Thomas’ experience was a theophany. Be clear though. Thomas never moved from doubt to faith; he moved from faith to knowledge. That’s something we could all wish for, but it just doesn’t happen all that often.

Maybe you’re more like me than like Thomas. Maybe you’re not getting the theophany moment you long for. Your questions remain. Some days we might feel like God has given us a little comfort, or a fingernail-thin sense of presence. Some days we read the Bible and think it’s possible that God might be speaking to us through it.

But when we see others celebrating the nearness of God, our truth surfaces. We haven’t gotten to touch the very answer to our question. The band can play loud and the lights can shine bright. Pastors can speak with authority and optimism. People can force their smiles on us and still, our question has yet to be resolved.

If that’s you, then you are the person Jesus blesses in this moment.

Blessed are the ones who hang on without an answer. Blessed are the ones who wrestle instead of retreating. Blessed are the ones who carry the ache of an unanswered prayer, and still press on. Blessed are the ones who know they don’t know, and still choose as best they can to trust the character of God.

Maybe the Bible character you relate to most is that panicked father who thought he was losing his son, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!" If that’s your story today, know this:

When Jesus gathered with his disciples in the upper room—after his resurrection, after the devil was beaten, after death died, after an angel kicked open the tomb and the glory rays of resurrection flooded into human history – after all of that, Jesus blessed you.

You may not get to touch the crucified hand, not until eternity. You may not get the theophany you ache for. You many not ever get the answer to the question you’re asking. But there, in your valley of the shadow, you are still choosing, as best you can, to trust.

Jesus sees you and Jesus blesses you.

Marc Alan Schelske writes about life at the intersection of grace and growth at MarcAlanSchelske.com, where this article was originally published (it is reprinted here with permission). He is the teaching elder at Bridge City Community Church in Milwaukie, Oregon where he has served for 18 years. He's the author of Discovering Your Authentic Core Values. Marc is a husband, dad of two, speaker, writer, hobbyist theologian, recovering fundamentalist who drinks tea & rides a motorcycle. You can follow him on Twitter at @Schelske

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com / Margaret Young

If you respond to this article, please:

Make sure your comments are germane to the topic; be concise in your reply; demonstrate respect for people and ideas whether you agree or disagree with them; and limit yourself to one comment per article, unless the author of the article directly engages you in further conversation. Comments that meet these criteria are welcome on the Spectrum Website. Comments that fail to meet these criteria will be removed.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7388

SD Adventism has twenty some fundamental beliefs, most of which are redundant among protestant religions. Spectrum appears not to have fundamental beliefs. In Mr Schleske’s article here, we have an appeal to faith in God and His Son resurrected. A wonderful, encouraging Easter message. However, In the very article before, Trisha Fam. is claiming to be too intellectual to believe in God. Not a single mention of Jesus, on Easter weekend! She thinks it’s perfectly fine to be SDA without God.

Is God necessary or not around these parts? Is He a mere cosmic option, like condiments on a Big Frank? Like whip or no whip at Starbucks!!!

1 Like

Would we recognize Jesus if we saw Him? Do we seek Him in all the wrong places? He is not in the churches, He is not in the pulpit of popular preachers but wherever there are hungry, abused children; with the homeless and kicked out of homes, wherever there are those in need.

He is not found in sacred scriptures or books or the great doctrines of the church or the tomes of ancient men. He is everywhere and all around us; and we are all seeking in the wrong places. We needn’t look for Him: look for all those in need and offer your help, He will be there among those who truly need Him and it is there you will find Him.

9 Likes

Kirstan
I think you misunderstood Trisha.
She does believe in God. but I think you will find in what she is attempting to say, that she believes God is much bigger than just the Box of Denominational Making. That there is MORE to God than just performing “Seventh day Adventist-ism” in what she does, or what she thinks.
It is this MORE that she is wanting to receive, to understand, to experience.
She hasnt necessarily given up Seventh day Adventism, but she sees that Seventh day Adventism is only part of understanding God, that there seems to be a Terminus in SDA-ism. She sees the prospects of the mountains of God in the distance, and is looking for connecting ways to get to the Mountains of God.

Paul tells us that a "Human caused us to be separated from God, but that a Human, in the form of Jesus, allowed us to be re-joined with God. We are once again Children of God. Once again in the Family of God, with God as our Father, God as our Mother, God as our Brother."
God is not in Religion. But God is in Relationship. God is not in Forms of Liturgy of praising Them. God is not in Life-Style [however important that might be to us.] God is in Relationship.
In Relationship, many times we have to pray the Two [2] prayers of the Human Jesus.

  1. Father if it is possible, let this particular cup of wine [experience] pass from me. [Sometimes it is put back in the bottle, sometimes it put on the table for a later time, sometimes it is dumped out, and something better is offered that we can drink.] And sometime we just have drink it because it is healthy for us.
  2. My God, My God, WHY have you forsaken ME! . Sometimes it will feel like we are abandoned. And cannot sense God any where. But God is every where, in a sense, in every thing because He caused it to be. He is “IMMANUEL” – God with us. In these moments, THIS is the REAL challenge. To form the word with our dry mouth, our lonely, fearful self – Immanuel… Immanuel… Immanuel. Perhaps even make up a tune to go with the word as we pronounce the syllables.
    And think, like the person who said, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
    Maybe be like the person sitting in the synagogue — all we can emotionally utter is – God be merciful [in this context, be compassionate, feel what I am feeling] to me a sinner. And Jesus says, God answers our prayers, and feels what we are feeling.
1 Like

Steve…

I think you might be reading a little much into what Trish believes. Here are her own words:

“As for myself, I am agnostic about belief in God, which emerges from my views on language and the limits of knowledge. I consider myself post-theist to the traditional concept of God. This is an entirely different way of thinking about value and of what the meaning of life is. I am comfortable with the idea that this one life is the full measure of my existence in the universe.”

Not only is this post Adventist, it is post Christian in its theological outlook. All that you just delineated about the Christian story in your post, is something that she seems to not hold to in her own worldview. It seems that God, for her, cannot be found within the limits of language, epistemology, and thus singular narrative, such as the biblical one. In keeping with this, she seems to reject the idea of resurrection, the essence of the Christian hope… for her, this one life is all there is.

I do not begrudge her her beliefs. I see the health in being able to publicly express them, and to sweep away the cognitive dissonance that one lives with when they are buried. All should be able to express their doubts and fears, and their struggles with belief, especially when it is difficult to believe. We should be able to do it without fear of condemnation. The church should be here to minister to such people. That is what the above article presents. It is refreshing.

With that said, the Christian church can do so without compromising its singular message. The kingdom of God has been established by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We await his coming. In the midst of this broken world, we thus seek to announce through words and deeds of faith, hope, and love, that he is savior, forgiver, restorer, and Lord.

Even to those who struggle with belief (probably most of us)…or do not believe.

Thanks…

Frank

2 Likes

Marc, when you say Jesus blesses those who want answers but aren’t getting them, what specifically do you mean? What is Jesus doing when he blesses them, and how would we know he is doing it?

Nor does anyone, its just that she brings nothing to the table in the context that Spectrum is ostensibly an adventist publication predicated on the things adventism holds dear.
Yet spectrum in its dyslexic childish way trots atheists and agnostics through here more than frequently, lets them publish papers as if it added to our understanding of Adventism or increased our faith or brought us comfort or any of the things an Adventist publication would/should support/promote.
What then is her piece good for?
Is it like taking your kids to the zoo to see all the strange and funny animals?
Is it like finding a bacteria in a jungle mud hole hoping there is a medical application somewhere is all that muck?

Every one agrees that each person is entitled to their own beliefs etc. The entire country was founded on those principals, so that isnt the issue.

What then is the reason?

Man has forever tried to build his own tower of Babal. When the Truth is God in Christ came down to meet us. Young people love to sing, I am climbing Jacob’s ladder. when the Truth is Christ came down. now He made the connections through which Angels minister to us and the Holy Spirit guides us. The most primitive man has his gods and his desire to reach up. Read ps. 22,23,24 as a trilogy and be assured. The message is–The Everlasting Covenant has become the Everlasting Gospel. The room of doubt has become the treasure house of Grace. Tom Z

3 Likes

Thomas was the one who held out his belief in Him until Jesus appears to him after the resurrection. He’s supposed to represent the rest of us believers who doubt, sometimes or a lot of the times. Yet Thomas does not represent us because he got to touch and feel and to see for himself.

No Answers? Jesus Blesses You., 28 March 2016 ,Marc Alan Schelske said ”Yay for him! Not everyone gets Thomas’ experience. Some of us get no answers.” Centuries later we are hear still doubting and wondering (as well we should) but still looking for that touch, that quick feeling of assurance. If that were to occur in our lives then it would no longer be faith. It would be fact. “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed,” is how the Thomas story ends. It is the unseen that weighs faith’s strength. It is the unknown that measures faith’s depth.

Marc,

Thank you so much for giving me some hope! I am one of those people that you described in your article, and your comments reached me at a very dark time. Thank you so much!

1 Like

That depends on what kind of God the corporate SDA church worships.

How “perfectly fine” is the current corporate SDA God when the SDA church itself cannot be “perfectly fine” to half of the world’s population? I believe for every 107 males born, there are 100 females born. It has been said that the default sex XX (female) is healthier than XY (male) who suffer more health complications, for the sole reason that they have an alternative set of X for reserves. Males do not so their deficiencies tend to be more obvious, robust and stable. Think WO and Male Headship.

Perhaps once the SDA church elects a female GC president, our corporate God will become “more” equitable and hopefully Trisha Famisaran and her likes together with the other XY SDAs would be able to worship the our God.

With the Christian majority making paganism look attractive it is no wonder that the youth are looking for beliefs that are applied here and now and bring justice to those we have trod upon. If we can’t rise to this expectation, at least we can stay out of their way.

3 Likes

The Easter story is a mosxt wonderful narrative of the selflessness and willingness to always be of service by Jesus son of God, Saviour and Spiritual messiah. A few points may however be mentioned to clarify the events of the pre-crucifixion events held during the March AD 33 equinox meetings before the actual crucifixion. Jesus could have avoided crucifixion , but refused to act so as to avoid it. He was crucified because he raised Lazarus from the “dead”’ What do I mean by that ? During the Feast of Dedication in November 32 AD Three Jewish zealots led a demonstration to protest Pilate’s bloody intervention in a peaceful demonstration a few months previously. That demonstration was to protest the use of (sacred)money from the Temple treasury to build grandiose Public Works. Pilate sent in Roman soldiers in camouflage to bludgeon many of the demonstrating Jews to death.The AD 32 counter-demonstrations were led by Simon Magus , Judas Iscariot and Theudas Barrabus. It got out-of-hand and Roman soldiers sent keep order were attacked and killed. The three ringleaders fled and took up refuge at the monastery for contemplatives in the desert. Pilate never though to look for the wanted men there. The Pharisees of the Jerusalem Temple knew the ringleaders and were livid that these actions could compromise their position with Roman authorities. Accordingly they took action by condemning the leader SIMON MAGUS to “spiritual death” This meant wrapping him in grave clothes and imprisoning him in a mausoleum for three days. If no priest came to “raise him from the dead” during the three days he would be left to starve to death. He was also reduced to the status of a LEPER< socially.Martha, the Magus’ paramour pleaded tearfully to Jesus about her lover’s cruel fate and asked him to do something. Jesus therefore went to the grave site and performed the "raising ceremony, though not ordained as a Priest. Earlier versions of Mark had both men exchanging pleasantries before. the raising ceremonies. During the AD 33 equinox rituals Judas became jealous of the tributes paid to Jesus by the crowd assembled, and therefore planned to go to the authorities to betray his whereabouts. He was confident that the proper bribes would be paid to Pilate by his friends, the Herods, for his release. He hated Jesus for marrying the Magdalene whom he felt was at least a divorcee. The Pharisees totally abhorred Jesus’ liberal social stances and they hated the MAGUS as a zealot who constantly got them in trouble with the Romans. They paid for the release of Barabbas. Simon and Jesus were condemned to death. It so happened that no one paid bribes for JUDAS either as he was regarded as a Jewish traitor .Jesus voluntarily faced death though he could have at least avoided it and so remains the Nazarene/Christian hero fo millions down the ages. This is the Easter story and the reason for the faith of millions in the spiritual master.