Covid cases continue to rise. A friend is diagnosed with aggressive cancer. Another wrestles with deciding how best to care for his wife with advanced Alzheimer’s.
I return again to this season of Easter which, according to the church calendar, continues for six weeks, and I wonder: How do we live in Easter when the world still wears the shock and grief of Friday and the emptiness of Saturday?
Don’t misunderstand me. We need the long season of Easter precisely because we who live in this world still feel the weight of Friday and the unknowing of Saturday. But needing something and knowing how to live it can be, for me, two different things. I can recognize a gift and reach toward it but struggle to untie the ribbons and loosen the paper.
This week, as chronic illness has flared and I’ve lived my days lightheaded, I’ve revisited this question. How do we live Easter when Friday and Saturday refuse to be left behind?
I keep having to remind myself of what I know: That the times I’ve come hurting to Jesus have been the exact same times I’ve most deeply experienced his gentle, compassionate love. That Jesus calls us to come weary and thirsty—whenever we need grace. And that God gives us 40% of the Psalter as lament psalms for the times our hearts are heavy and we can’t find the words.
I have to keep reminding myself because, like most people, there’s a rather vocal part of me that would rather skip the pain. In her beautiful new book, Prayer in the Night, Tish Harrison Warren tells of a friend whose family was falling apart:
“Always an optimist, he told me one day, ‘I’m willing to grieve, but not to feel sad anymore. I’m tired of feeling sad.’ I almost laughed—not at his tragedy, but because I identified with his sentiment.
We just don’t want to feel sad. We’ll do almost anything to avoid it. And if we must feel sad, we at least want our sadness to end when we see fit. We want grief to be a task we can complete; the oven timer of our soul dings and we’re on to something else. But that isn’t how grief works. We control it as much as we control the weather. It is not simply an intellectual activity, a cognitive recognition of loss. Feeling sadness is the cost of being emotionally alive. It’s the cost, even, of holiness. Christians have to let ourselves be a people who mourn. It’s part of the deal. It’s a defining characteristic of those Jesus called ‘blessed’” (p. 41).
It’s part of the deal for many reasons, I think, but one is the simple fact that life in this broken world hurts. And Love doesn’t turn away from that pain but takes the risk of entering it, willing to be a crucible for the alchemy in which pain is turned to life. It’s worth it. Just ask Jesus. Or any new mother.
So then, how do we live Easter fully when Friday and Saturday refuse to be left behind?
We stay close to the risen One who still wears scars.
And we remember that, as Russell Moore puts it,
“the Resurrection is not the overturning of the cross, as though crucifixion were defeat and Resurrection a contradiction of that defeat. The cross and the Resurrection were part of one act of love and mission and redemption. . . .The Resurrection does not annihilate the old creation. It reconfigures it.”
In other words, Easter doesn’t erase Good Friday. It completes it.
The resurrection doesn’t negate our wounds. It redeems them, reshaping them in light of love.
So we can expect wounds in this world, and see them not as failure or tragedy but as a potential place for Life to be born. We can press our wounds into those of the One who wears his for us. Instead of trying to fix our emotions we can bring to him, as often as we need, our griefs and fears and shame, and pour them out, holding nothing back. And we will find him showing us his scars. “I know, my child. Life in this world hurts. Love in this world hurts.”
We can live Easter when Friday and Saturday linger precisely because they all fit together into one seamless whole, a whole which reminds us that though in our present world death still has a word, it doesn’t have the last word.
We live secure in the One who not only has the last word but is the last Word, the Omega in whom everything culminates as well as the Alpha through whom it began.
And this first and last Word is a glorious word of freedom and love and joy, a Word strong enough and tender enough—a Word who has suffered enough and loves enough—to hold us in the darkest places.