Jesus said, “It is finished.”
A few years ago, my church read through the Bible chronologically. As we traveled through the desert with the Israelites and watched them make the same mistakes, over and over and over, I wondered if maybe we’re all programmed to repeat history. I wondered if getting stuck in a cycle is inevitable, if it’s possible to avoid the experience of looking at a hard situation and realizing that you’ve been there before, that it’s not as new or surprising as you initially thought.
Strangely enough, those Old Testament stories and my wondering made me think of Winnie the Pooh. While Pooh wasn’t looking for a new home outside the Hundred Acre Wood, that silly bear and his friends got lost in the woods so many times! In book after book, movie after movie, we saw them wandering around in circles, following their own footprints, jumping at every mysterious sound they hear, and passing the same landmarks again and again. Winnie the Pooh and his friends were just as lost and confused as the Israelites. And they were just as mixed up and frightened as I am in the same scenario.
Now, I certainly don’t mean that I’ve spent decades lost in the same forest. Not literally, at least. I’ve never been haunted by howls or Heffalumps; I’ve never been chased by mysterious animals or gotten so hungry for honey that I begin hallucinating. But have I ever crawled to the end of one race only to be tossed into the middle of another one? Have I ever faced trial after trial after trial until it feels like I’m crawling through mud, like I’m dragging myself through the miry clay? Have I wandered away from the path God made for me, following my own desires and dreams instead of His? Oh yeah.
Sometimes I’m lost because I’m an Israelite at heart, returning to the same fear and pride and anger that got me in trouble in the first place. When that happens I’m almost always slow to recognize the pattern of my own sin, the responsibility I own for my stress. And even once I do, figuring out how to break the cycle can seem just as difficult and exhausting as sitting and suffering in sin.
Sometimes I find myself [metaphorically] in the woods because this life is hard, because circumstances are out of my control and, seemingly, out to get me. And sometimes saying, “when it rains, it pours,” doesn’t even come close to describing the mind-numbing weariness that comes with one hard situation after another, with a season determined to illustrate Jesus’ claim that we will certainly face tribulation in this life.
And sometimes we face a situation that is unlike our previous experience but shares enough characteristics with something that’s hurt us or something we’ve struggled with in the past that it brings it all up again. And we find ourselves thinking: Aren’t we out of the woods yet? How can we be lost again? Aren’t we over this thing?
But not only did Jesus predict that we would face trouble in this world, He declared that He has overcome this world. And when He was breathing His last breaths on the cross, He answered our desperate cries once and for all. “It is finished,” He cried. It is finished. Though we may feel dizzy with the tribulations of this world, Jesus has promised—both in word and in beautiful, blood-spilling deed—that while we may have started the cycle of sin and entered the proverbial woods of this world, He has finished it. He has borne the weight of every one of our sins, every ounce of mud, every dark corner of the woods, every toss of the cruel wind. He took it all, and He rose victorious.
He faced our fears and our doubts and our sin, and He won. It might not feel like it yet, but we know the war is over.
It is finished.
Remember, when you face something that feels achingly familiar, it will not torment you forever. We know how our every story ends and who wins the war; God wrote the ending when His Son gave His life for ours. All our reflection and repentance, our sacrifice and serving, our humbling and hoping—it’s all led us here, to the cross. Lent has prepared us to arrive at the very moment when Jesus took our place in the desperate, doomed battle against the woods and won, where He declared, “It is finished.”
It is finished. Our time in the wilderness and the woods is over. Our Lord has died, for us, but He’s risen again. And it is finished.
Oh Lord, I am overwhelmed. The thought of You taking the punishment for my sin, the thought of You fighting my every battle—I’m overcome with gratitude, Lord! I am not worthy, but I am thankful. And I’m relieved. I’m relieved to know I won’t be bombarded with the tribulations of this world forever. I’m relieved to know I don’t have to fight this war, that You’ve already won, and that even if it doesn’t feel like it yet, I know You finished this battle once and for all. Thank You, Jesus! Thank You. I love You. Amen.
Excerpt from Journey to the Cross: Forty Days to Prepare Your Heart for Easter by Mary Carver.
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