Today is Holy Saturday. This day, in the Easter story, is a day when Jesus is dead. Gone. Absent. If people are sick, there’s no one to heal them. If people want words of wisdom or insight, He’s not there.
He’s dead. In the tomb.
Yesterday and today I’ve read a lot of tweets and Facebook updates, talking about how difficult Good Friday was…
…but we must remember Sunday.
How it’s all going to be okay because Jesus rises again.
We don’t have to get depressed about His death, because we know it’s all okay in the end.
Now there might be some truth in this. Jesus does rise again. Which is awesome.
But can we wait till tomorrow to remember it?
All this triumphalism disappoints me. It hurts. Because the truth is, things don’t always work out at the end. When we pray, not everyone gets healed. The problem someone had didn’t get solved.
It’s not all happy ever after all the time.
Sometimes, God feels absent. Like all hope is lost. We are in the pit of despair and there is no escape. And the last thing anyone wants in this moment is someone coming along saying ‘Its’ all going to be okay”
Because sometimes it isn’t.
One of the reasons I’m convinced people reject Christianity, or people get so annoyed with Christians, is because half of us indulge in triumphalism all the time. We get excited by Sunday and forget Friday and Saturday. We acknowledge them and proceed to skirt over them.
We share amazing stories of God’s healing, provision and goodness – real stories from real lives – which while wonderful, aren’t everyone’s experience.
We make God sound like a solution to everyone’s problems – like, believe in Him and He’ll sort everything out somehow. We use cheesy and corny phrases taken straight from the Christianese dictionary to try and make circumstances better.
When my Mum died, if someone had told me, “Don’t worry, it will all be okay, she’s with Jesus now” I honestly would have wanted to punch them. Because I didn’t need to hear the happy ever after story. Not then. Maybe later, yes. But not right in the midst of my pain.
Sometimes we need to feel the absence of God. We need to experience the loss of God.
On the cross, Jesus didn’t smile and say “It’s tough now, but it’s all going to be okay, I still trust you God”
No, Jesus said
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
As Peter Rollins put it, Jesus becomes an atheist on the cross. God denies God. And it’s not an intellectual denial. Jesus knows God exists. No, what Jesus experiences is far deeper and much more profound:
It’s a felt absence.
And it’s real.
We should not ever ignore the absence. We should never skirt over our pain, our loss or our grief. We cannot simply ignore doubts and fears, or those of others.
Jesus wants us to confront them. He wants us to feel this sense of hopelessness and despair. To experience this loss of hope. To reach out an touch the reality of the dark world we live in.
Jesus wants us, peversely, to feel an absence of God. He wants to hear our own cries of
“Why have you forsaken me?”
Because in truth, we all have these questions welling up within us. We are just too afraid to share them.
We are led to think we need to have all the answers. To have it all together. We think absence and doubt are from the enemy, and we should ignore them – when Jesus wants us to confront them.
This, ironically, is how we grow in intimacy with Jesus, and how resurrection gains it’s full power and glory.
When we embrace the absence, instead of ignoring it.
So today, instead of thinking about tomorrow, sit and acknowledge God’s absence. The places where darkness seems overwhelming. Places in the world or in your life where Jesus seems absent. Injustices which make you want to ask
“Where are you God?”
Tomorrow is resurrection. Today is absence.
And both have their place.
Do you agree with me or not? Why?
Do you embrace the absence, or ignore it?
What do you think?
Let me know in the comments below!
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