On Easter Sunday, congregations around the world will come together to celebrate the resurrection. Families will gather and children will hunt for eggs while we tell the story of our risen King. The empty grave is certainly worth celebrating but I wonder if in our focus on Easter Sunday, we are too quick to forget about the darkness of Good Friday and the people who are sitting in it this weekend.
It is ironic that we call the day of the crucifixion Good Friday because it was the darkest of days. God himself was nailed to a cross. The scripture describes an earthquake and darkness settling on the land. As Jesus breathed His last, the veil in the temple tore and the presence of God left Holy of Holies. Humanity was alone and without hope.
Like many of you, I’ve had Good Fridays in my life. I’ve faced the darkness that is so thick it feels physical. My Good Friday happened in a Wal-Mart parking lot one afternoon when I took a call from my daughter’s neurologist. She read me the results of the genetic testing and the ground shook. She told me my little girl would have countless seizures and continue to cognitively decline for the remainder of her now shortened lifespan as the veil in my heart ripped violently. That doctor told me there was no cure and suddenly my world was without hope.
Good Friday feels overwhelmingly chaotic and terrifying. You lay alone in the dark and it’s hard to believe the ground will ever stop shaking. You question everything you believed in and you hurt deeper than you have ever hurt before. In our culture, we tend to jump straight from the crucifixion to the resurrection, but that’s not how it happens. The sky goes black and it stays that way for a while. The disciples got up to bury their king and, like them, you do what you must to deal with the situation at hand, but hope is gone so everything feels futile.
The pain is so exhausting that eventually you close your eyes on Good Friday but you wake up in the morning and the darkness is still there. You see, in between the cross and the empty tomb is Saturday and let me tell you Saturday is hard. On Saturday morning, the disciples woke up to a life without their master. Peter raced back the water where he felt safe. The other disciples huddled in a room afraid to leave, afraid of the world outside their door. Saturday was brutal and it was long. The realization sets in that life as we knew it will never be the same again. All the scriptures that predicted the resurrection felt silent and far away. On my Saturday morning, I learned how to function in the darkness while still raging against its very existence. That’s when it mattered that my people were still there.
Many of us feel alone on our Good Friday. The people around us don’t know how to handle our tragedy so they say painful things, or worse, they ghost out of our lives. Sometimes though, we reach out in the darkness and find a hand. The pain doesn’t stop and the nothing is fixed but when someone comes alongside you to hold your arms up, it’s like breaking through the top of the water for a gasp of air. In counseling, we use the term exquisite suffering. I love that phase because it holds space for both the devastation of our loss and the peace that comes from knowing you aren’t alone.
Eventually, Sunday comes. The sun always rises eventually and we learn to breath in this new world. Hope and light return to the planet. We still bear the scars of Good Friday though. Yes, we celebrate the resurrection but we do so with tired hearts. As we step into the sunlight, we offer praises for healing or for the hope of an empty grave.
This weekend, as you look across the congregation or the crowd at the egg hunt, please be mindful of those among us who are still sitting in the darkness. They are walking hard roads and need us to come alongside them. Instead of asking them for plastic smiles in posed pictures, take a moment to extend a hand and meet them in a moment of exquisite suffering because even on Easter Sunday, it can still be Good Friday.
Please share with others who are hurting this Easter. I also want to hear about your Good Friday in the comments or on Facebook and Instagram. Have you found hope or are you still wading through the darkness? When have you felt most connected to others during your own hard times?