Notes from Jan

You Are Not Alone

March 29, 2024

Today’s Friday. Good Friday. But it didn’t look good back when Jesus hung on a cross, his disciples scattered and evil appeared triumphant. And, for sure, it doesn’t look all that good today for hungry, terrified, beat-down folks in Haiti, Gaza, Israel, Ukraine, Sudan and so many other places in this world.

It’s tough to watch, hear or read the news. The sights and sounds, words and photos of our suffering world and planet lead me to pray, weep and cringe. And cringe I did when I saw a photo of former President Trump holding a Bible emblazoned with God Bless the USA. I felt sick at heart to see the Bible used as a political pawn for personal gain. And yes, it’s happened before with others, as well. In stark contrast, it brought to mind one of my favorite bumper stickers. God Bless the Rest of the World, too.

If ever there was a day in Christendom to know God’s view of the world, it’s today. Good Friday. The first Bible verse I learned was John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave…” Gave what? The life of his son, Jesus. I don’t get that kind of sacrificial love. Even Jesus agonized and asked if there was another way. But God said, “No.” Then Jesus said,”Yes.” And left us free to choose to be part of this redemptive love story or ignore, deny it ever happened or mattered and hope for the best.

But back to the title of this blog. Two things prompted it. The most obvious is Jesus on the cross crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Many of you, who read this blog, know the rest of the story. But perhaps you, like I, have also felt, to some degree, the agony of feeling alone. I have sensed God’s silence, or prayed for some sign God heard or cared.

And yet, even in as Jesus hangs on the cross, he sill hangs on to God. He doesn’t cry out, “Whoever you are, why have you left me alone to die? Philip Yancey reminded me in one of his books that Jesus still cries out to MY God. Even bruised, battered, betrayed Jesus with his lungs struggling to take in air declares this seeming absentee God is still HIS God. My God.

Which reminds me of three amazing proclamations Jesus utters as he gasps for air. First, although Jesus feels utterly alone and forsaken, he still declares that God is still MY God. (Mark 15:34). Second, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And that forgiveness is for all us clueless and cruel ones who don’t know what we’ve done or are doing.(Luke 23:34) And third, whatever God asked of him for love of the world, Jesus chose to obey and with his final breath declared, It is finished! (John 19:30) Not I’m finished or you’re finished but It is finished.

The other image that drew me to reflect on the theme of feeling alone was Catherine, Princess of Wales, sitting alone on a bench telling the world she has cancer. She appeared calm, serious but with an underlying vulnerability. She’s a wife. mom, daughter, sister and so much more than a royal title. But I felt her compassion when she looked into the camera and spoke. “For everyone facing this disease in whatever form, do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.

And so on this Good Friday, with whatever you are facing, You are not alone. Jesus is with you where you take your treatments or watch and wait while someone you love endures what seems unendurable. And you are not alone in an empty house, with place settings no longer needed at the table. The arms that stretched wide on that cruel cross, extend a loving, forgiving reach to you. And to those you pray for and love. Though we may feel stuck, lost, lonely, afraid and hopeless, this is not the end of the story . Not for Jesus or for you and me and the world God so loves. As Tony Campolo’s famous sermon shouts, “It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming!

On any given day, when fear and anxiety threaten to undo us, it helps to remember. We are not alone. There is a love that doesn’t let loose of us. Like the hymn writer wrote, O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.” I know. I’ve sensed that Love, that Light in the darkness, and that help when weak.

And I know from some of your stories, you know that Love, Light and courageous strength to endure, as well. So, as Catherine said, “Do not lose faith or hope. You are not alone.” And even more important to read what God says to you and me: “Don’t be afraid, for I AM WITH YOU! Don’t be discouraged, for I AM YOUR GOD. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. ” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)

As Anne Lamott reminded me, “We’re Easter people in a Good Friday world.”

So take heart.

Sunday’s Coming!

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  • Reply Mark D Taylor March 29, 2024 at 5:00 pm

    Thank you, Jan. This is a powerful reminder that we are not alone. Happy Easter–Sunday’s coming.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 10:50 am

      Amen! Hope for the hopeless. You come to mind often dear Mark, and then I pray for you, Carol, your family. Thank you for the ministry of Tyndale.

  • Reply shelly moran March 29, 2024 at 5:51 pm

    As always Jan, you are right on! So necessary for us all to remember that even in a crowd we can feel along. But know Christ and His love, takes away that loneliness or aloneness. All we need do is turn to Him for comfort and strength for He gave the ultimate sacrifice.
    Thank you for the reminder. Blessings this Easter tide. We will miss you at CBS this week.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 10:54 am

      I’ll miss being at CBS with you, dear Shelly, also I’m so grateful for this Bible study and for the leadership of Jane, you and the wise and witty women in our group.

  • Reply Sue Andringa March 29, 2024 at 10:35 pm

    Hallelujah!! Love you, Jan! Happy Easter! ❤️

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 10:56 am

      Thank you, dear Sue. So good to hear form you in beautiful Arizona. And JOY to and through you and Bob.

  • Reply Radina Welton March 30, 2024 at 1:02 am

    This ministered to me as a perfect ending to this day. My husband and I just returned from a most moving, beautiful Tenebrae service at our now church home, a sacred space that is truly more “home” than any in our past experience. We’re exceedingly thankful for Lake Grove Presbyterian Church in Lake Oswego, OR, now celebrating its centennial year of faithfulness in this place!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 11:00 am

      How good to read this, dear Radina. It’s so important to find a great church after making a major relocation. And it sounds like you’ve landed in an exceedingly good place. I’m sure there’ll be opportunities to use the musical gifts you have. Sending hugs to the Petrocellis, as well.

  • Reply Shirley Westrate March 30, 2024 at 10:24 am

    Oh Jan, I wonder how many others of your readers are thinking that you have written this just for them! Thank you.

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 11:04 am

      Well, dear Shirley, if you were the only one, I’d be grateful to have written this piece. Hopeful, we can soon meet for lunch to catch-up.

  • Reply Maggie Wallem Rowe April 1, 2024 at 5:43 am

    Thank you, Jan. This was one of the best reflections I read in preparation for the events of this past weekend. We are Easter people indeed!

    • Reply Jan Carlberg April 1, 2024 at 11:07 am

      Yes, indeed and in deed, dear Maggie. Soon you’ll be enjoying the experience of long days in Norway and short nights in that northern climate. Enjoy!

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