By Susan K. Smith,
For all of us, there is probably a “favorite” of the Seven Last Words” of Jesus the Christ. All of them are powerful, but it is the last word, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” that moves me most.
Life does not lend itself well to committing to God, because life throws too many curveballs. Life does not care who we are, how popular or well-known we are, what we stand to lose as the curveballs are thrown, or how we feel about anything that has happened to us. Life just goes on and happens, in essence telling us to “deal with it.”
Dealing with life, though, is difficult. We do not understand why much of what happens, happens. I will never forget a student saying in a Bible study that she didn’t understand God, “I’ve been good!” she declared, but her life, according to her, was a mess. The more she tried to “be good,” she said, the worse things god.
It is troubling to many people that evil exists, resulting in hard times for all of us, in spite of there being God. It seems that God, who desires community, would step between Her people and the evil working to annihilate their (our) very spirits, But God does not, any more than God stopped prevented King Nebuchadnezzar from throwing Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fiery furnace. If anyone had been “good,” surely it was they, but not even they escaped the force, the ever- present force of evil. Yet, they went into the fiery furnace, committed to God, not to the government and its king. God met them there, and we all know how the story ends.
The force that is opposite God causes pain, suffering, disruption, disillusionment, disappointment, disavowal of God sometimes, and mayhem. It is powerful and wreaks havoc in our souls, causing some of us to yearn for the night to come and to bemoan the breaking of a new day.
It seems that the only and best thing to do when the force has us by the heels is to say the exact words that Jesus said as His death was upon Him, “God …into Your hands I commit my spirit.” There is a certain release and relief that comes when we say those words, when we acknowledge that though this moment in which we find ourselves is troubling or scary or unfair, we believe that God is greater than it all. God, the lover of all souls, the creator of all human beings, and the Force which fights the forces all around us, ultimately will have dominion over this thing which is causing us turmoil.
Years ago, I ministered to a young girl who had bone cancer. She was in horrific pain. The “saints” had come to visit her, to pray over her, to apply oil to her forehead and bring “more” God into her thinking and praying. She called me late one evening, crying. “I have faith!” she kept sputtering. “I have faith but they don’t believe me!” Let’s call that the “force,” having its way, causing some to believe their power is greater than the power of God.
A day or two later she was in the hospital. The cancer had invaded every part of her body. A tumor was growing out of her eye. The mere presence of a sheet on her ravaged body caused her to cry out. The pain meds they were giving her lasted only a short while. Normally, you could hear her cries of pain from the moment you got off the elevator. But not this day. I was afraid she had already transitioned.
But when I got to her room, she was smiling. I thought maybe she had just gotten her pain meds, but the nurse said, “I don’t know what’s going on. She’s been quiet and smiling all morning. We haven’t done anything different.”
I went to her and she said, whispering, “I told you I had faith, Rev. Sue. Jesus heard me. Jesus knows. I told Jesus I committed myself to Him. I said those words, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” And God gave me peace.”
I was stunned. Yes, we had talked about those words, lots of times, but I had never seen the words come to life, or speak life into a tormented being. She was still in pain, she said, but she knew God was with her. She knew that God had not abandoned her. Let’s call that “The Force.” “The Force” came to this young, vibrant woman, and took the power of the “force” away. The “force” had been supplanted by the power of “The Force,” God, in that child’s body and more importantly, in her spirit.
She died two days later, at home. Her mother called me the night before she died. I could hear her cries in the background, but the morning she died, and I visited her home, I was stunned yet again. She was smiling. She died …smiling. Her mother said that not long before she passed, she got quiet, and smiled. And she said she heard her daughter say, “Into your hands…”
When we surrender and trust God like that, even in our darkest moments, God, “The Force” does what only God can do. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright said, in preaching the Third Word last week, “God is still a healer. He might not heal me, but God is still a healer.” That commitment to God, the commitment of our spirit, us placing our spirits into the very hands of God, moves the “force” out of our space…and lets God be God as only God can.
There is no greater gift God can give us.
Amen and amen.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad