Updated: May 16, 2020
As I sit looking out the window, the rain is falling as it’s done all week, but I see a patch of blue sky. That scene feels so appropriate for this Good Friday in the midst of a pandemic. We long for the sunshine to break through and clear away the clouds. We long for the resurrection, the victory over death. We long for an end to the disease and the uncertainty and the interruption of our normal lives. We hold onto that small glimmer of hope because we know that our God is sovereign, but it doesn’t erase the dark clouds that cover us in the present.
For some, faith has been handed to us as a cure. We’ve been taught that if we trust God enough, all will go well for us. We will experience blessing and victory in all circumstances. We will be shielded from hardship and receive what we ask for if we just believe. This type of faith focuses on the resurrection and turns a blind eye to the suffering and death that led up to it. This type of faith is a denial of the brokenness that is part of our current reality, whether we follow God or not.
Faith in God does not make us exempt from pain and suffering or sickness and death. In fact, Jesus promised us that we would experience those things. We read his words in John 16:13 where he tells us, “In this world you will have trouble,” and in Luke 9:23 where he commands us to “take up [our] cross daily.” Jesus isn’t just calling us into resurrection, but he is calling us to follow him into death.
Oh, how we yearn to ignore that part. We despise having to sit in the pain and discomfort of death. We beg God to let us skip ahead to the good part. But you can’t have resurrection without death.
We ease the pain a bit by telling ourselves that the physical death is what Jesus is referencing. Of course, we’ll all come to the end of our time on earth. We’ll leave this world behind and experience something so much greater. That takes the sting out of it.
But Jesus is calling us to a death that is part of our daily lives, and that death is painful. Even Jesus, knowing the glory that was to come, sat with the weight of the agony that was going to precede it. He let himself feel it all, and he held the complexities of his emotions. In one moment, he pleaded for God to take this hardship away, and in the next, he willingly accepted his fate only to accuse his Father of forsaking him the next day. He knew the resurrection was coming, but it didn’t stop him from experiencing the pain.
We also need to resist the urge to skip ahead. We can hold onto hope while still acknowledging the burdens we carry and the ache they produce. When Jesus tells us that he blesses those who are poor in spirit and those who mourn (Matthew 5:3-4), he is not only giving us permission to feel what we feel, but he is encouraging it.
When we are present to our struggle, that is when transformation happens. We come face to face with our own limits and brokenness. We begin to recognize our dependence on God. We wrestle with our long-held beliefs. We sift through the things that we need to release and those we need to embrace. And we discover our place as a tiny part of a greater human story.
The resurrection that takes place as we lean into death is not just for us. It is a gift that we get to share with others.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says,
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
The beauty of a God who lived the human life on earth and who poured his Spirit into us is that we have a God who suffers with us, and it’s in the common suffering that we find comfort. The beauty of having gone through our own suffering is that we are better able to join with others in their suffering and offer them that same comfort.
We can’t avoid the pain. We can’t turn a blind eye to the suffering around us. We can’t ignore the reality of death as we look forward to resurrection. Our faith cannot be based on God keeping us from all harm because that faith is destined to shatter. It will not hold up against adversity. Instead we need faith that says, “I trust that God is able to protect me from harm, but I trust that God is still good even if he doesn’t.” That faith is much stronger. Faith that continues to love others and show compassion even as we experience our own struggle is more profound. That is the faith that we need to survive a pandemic, and that is the faith that we need on a daily basis.
As we observe Good Friday today, let’s not try to skip ahead to Easter. Let’s acknowledge the struggle that is happening around us. Let’s allow ourselves to sit in the pain of living in a world that is not as it should be. Let’s admit our doubt and ask the hard the questions. Let’s trust that God is good even as we feel the sting of death.