Even When

Good Friday: The day we remember the depths to which our sovereign God stooped to rescue us.

The day when grief has its place in the church.

The day when silence has the last word.

Today I attended a Good Friday service for the first time in several years. The uniqueness of this day in Holy Week was evident in the uniqueness of this service. For one thing, Emily the musician noticed that all songs, except one, remained in a minor key throughout, which set up the appropriate sombre mood. Emily the introvert appreciated the scheduled periods of silence, which allowed the congregation to contemplate the gravity of Jesus’ crucifixion. (I love it when I’m given the space to think in the context of the church.)

This contemplation led me to a question: Would followers of Jesus have been able to worship the Father on the day of Jesus’ death, as they witnessed what seemed to be His defeat?

IMG_6325

During the service, the choir sang the lyrics of a poem found on a cell wall in a Nazi concentration camp:

I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.

I believe in love, even when I feel it not.

I believe in God, even when He is silent.

I was fascinated by the use of this poem, composed in the midst of a bleak situation, to represent the sense that the Father had abandoned. A sensation with which I am familiar.

My current overall medical condition is good. I feel like I am in a place where I can manage symptoms that may arise. But a few weeks ago, I didn’t feel like my symptoms were manageable.

I had anywhere from six to eight dislocations of my right shoulder over the span of a week and a half. I never fully recovered from the first dislocation before the next ones occurred, so my muscles weren’t exactly working for me.

At the same time, I had reached near the end of surgery recovery for my hand. I was conflicted; I wanted to rejoice at my progress on one joint and mourn the temporary regression on another joint. I wanted to praise God as my Healer, yet I was simultaneously not feeling healed. There was a disconnect between what I wanted to believe and what I truly felt.

I love that Matthew and Mark report Jesus’ question on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46, Mark 15:34). According to these passages, Jesus also experienced the disconnect between His understanding of the Father and what He truly felt.

He was obedient to the Father’s will, even when He felt abandoned.

How does the cross enable me to do the same?

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Psalm 23

The psalm typically associated with mourning death provides the key to renewed life.

He restores my soul.

If restoring is bringing back to an original state, the stability of my hands has been restored. How does God restore my soul?

By bringing me back to my soul’s original state–as it would be in the Garden of Eden.

He takes me back to the place where guilt and shame have not yet corrupted my soul.

He takes me back to the place where I don’t feel the need to work for my salvation.

He takes me back to the place where pain does not run rampant throughout the world.

Because of the cross, because of Good Friday, my sin has been paid for, and my soul has been restored.

 

I believe in my Healer, even when I don’t feel healed.

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