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Good Friday, Good Grief

“It’s not supposed to be this way…”

In my 20 years serving as a pastor, I have either heard this said—or had this thought myself—countless times while walking with others through heart-breaking seasons of life. Divorce, diagnosis, death, and countless other disappointments all prompt our hearts to cry out in pain, fear, and confusion with a sense things aren’t as they should be.

Seasons of disappointment and disruption are part of the human experience. We will all experience seasons like this at one time or another. The COVID pandemic has been a unique season when we have all experienced a season of disruption and disappointment collectively. How are we to respond to seasons of loss? Does grief even have a place in our faith?

A Good Friday Faith

Every year, millions of people around the world gather together to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. However, far fewer gather on Good Friday in remembrance and reflection of Jesus’ betrayal, trial, and crucifixion. While the victory of Easter is rightly at the center of our faith, we should resist the temptation to rush past the most difficult parts of the story leading up to the celebration of Easter. When we do, we rob ourselves of a part of the story that can offer us comfort, encouragement, and hope. Especially in those seasons when our hearts are crying out, “It’s not supposed to be this way.” The hope of Easter shines the brightest in the context of the disruption, chaos, disillusionment, and death of Good Friday.

Grief is real

Good Friday invites us to imagine the pain, fear, and hopelessness of the disciples in the moments after Jesus’ death. In the span of about two days, Jesus, one of their best friends whom they dearly loved, has just been killed in the most humiliating way. This after enduring an unjust trial and torture that resulted from Him being betrayed by another one of their friends. As if this wasn’t painful enough, they had placed all their hope for their future in Jesus… and now He was gone. On top of all of this, they were now living with the fear that they might be next. Surely one of the primary, shocking thoughts running through their minds was, “It’s not supposed to be this way.”

While none of us have had this particular experience, we can relate in some way to circumstances that lead to those feelings of bewilderment, fear, hopelessness, and grief. The Bible reminds us that we are not alone in these feelings and that our heavenly Father isn’t unaware of them. In fact, the Bible tells us that the whole of creation lives in grief waiting for its final redemption (Romans 8:22). As followers of Jesus, grief is not something we need to deny or be ashamed of. In fact, God invites us to honestly bring our concerns to Him because He cares for us (I Peter 5:7).

We don’t grieve without hope

During His time with the disciples, Jesus told them He would suffer and be killed—that these events were going to be part of His story. And He also told them He would be raised to life. But in the depths of grief and despair, it can be easy to forget the promises of God.

One of the most repeated commands in the Bible is to “remember.” The prophets in the Old Testament were regularly reminding the people of God to remember His promises and His faithfulness. To remember God had chosen them, delivered them, provided for them, been patient with them, and redeemed them. The call to remember was also one of the last commands of Jesus to His disciples, given in the upper room before His arrest.

When life is hard—the hardest—it is important for us to pause and remember God’s faithfulness. To remember that even when circumstances may look grim and dark, God is at work. It’s the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the space between our current circumstances and the fulfillment of God’s promises, that can be the most difficult for us. But, in the words of Shadrach Lockridge, if we find ourselves in a season that feels like Friday, we must remember and live with the confidence that Sunday is coming! (It's Friday But Sunday's Coming by S. M. Lockridge)

Death has been defeated

Every year on Good Friday, Bob Goff posts this on social media:

I remember this post all year because it reminds me that what we often think is the end of a story is just the beginning—through the lens of eternity. Jesus’ ministry resulted in His death. His death resulted in His resurrection. And His resurrection is the first-fruit, the initial offering, of the renewal of all things. Jesus’ resurrection not only offers us the hope of life after death, but points to a time when death will be no more. The resurrection is the promise that the sense we all have in our hearts of what could be and should be, one day will be. In the midst of our grief, we find hope not only in the resurrection, but in the defeat of death itself.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” ~Revelation 21:3-5

God loves you, is for you, and is with you

Finally, Good Friday reminds us that our heavenly Father loves us so much He sent His only son to die on the cross so we would no longer be separated from Him.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

~Romans 8:31-39

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