This post was written last Easter weekend. As I was re-reading it, thankful that we are able to gather at church this year, I couldn’t help but think it would be a good repeat post. If you read it last year, I hope the Lord uses it in a new way. If you didn’t read it last year, I pray it encourages you this year.
I think we can all agree that this Easter weekend feels weird.
It hit me hard yesterday (Good Friday) when I was driving home from the grocery store, and a song that we often sing at church came on my playlist. I immediately teared up – not just because of the song, but also the reminder that I am missing church and all the other things that make life feel normal more than I realized.
I was frustrated yesterday, and finally acknowledged that it doesn’t feel like Easter. Late last night I laid in bed thinking about that, and that Voice that I love to hear gently reminded me that the things that make this weekend special hadn’t changed at all.
And while I will miss gathering with our church family tomorrow something fierce, the reason we will celebrate remains the same. How we handle that, whether we embrace it or turn from it makes all the difference.
All of that got me thinking about that Saturday in-between all those years ago. The Saturday between the first Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
What happens when things don’t go as we hoped or planned? When that dream feels dashed, the job is lost, the family member passes away, or any other number of things that go so very wrong devastate us, what do we do?
This morning I studied the crucifixion and burial of Jesus in each of the four Gospels, paying careful attention to who stayed.
We know from Scripture that the disciples scattered, at least initially, likely fearing they’d be next. It’s easy for us to judge this moment in history and be shocked and disappointed in their actions, but if we stop and really try to put ourselves in their position, what would we do?
The temptation to flee is real when there’s a cost to our obedience.
But there are the ones who didn’t run, who withstood the horror they witnessed for the love of their Savior. There’s Joseph of Arimathea, a somewhat secret disciple who watched everything unfold from a distance, then boldly requested to take Jesus’s body to prepare for burial. We know very little about Joseph, only that he was a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who disagreed with their verdict. And we know Nicodemus was a Pharisee sent to question Jesus, who shows himself to be a believer when he comes to help Joseph with the burial. And of course there was John, who came back and stayed near, promising Jesus he would care for his mother.
Mary Magdalene and a few other women were present each day. They were there for the crucifixion, they watched as Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, and they returned on Sunday morning, the first to discover that the stone had been rolled away.
They were the first to see the resurrected Jesus, and obediently ran to tell the others.
We know that Mary Magdalene had been told by Jesus that he was going to be persecuted and would die, and then would rise on the third day. Knowing what little we do about Joseph and Nicodemus, we can’t say for sure that they had been told the same. Whether or not they knew that, what they did know was that Jesus was their Savior and they were determined to honor him to the very end.
We have the benefit of knowing the whole story. We didn’t have to stand by and witness what happened on that Friday. We weren’t left wondering all day Saturday if we had been deceived or if what he said was true. We weren’t there to see the risen Savior on that beautiful Sunday.
We know all of this, and still struggle to trust God on Saturday.
Think about the last time you were disappointed or maybe even downright devastated by what didn’t happen like you’d hoped, or were blindsided by something you didn’t expect.
Did you run to the Lord, or did you flee?
Did you hang on to Him, or drop off to figure things out on your own?
Did you trust that He would get you on the other side of it?
Friends, each of us are always in one of three stages in life – we’re either at the beginning of something hard, in the big middle of it, or celebrating the end of it and enjoying a lighter, happier load. It’s how we handle those stages that matter most. It’s Who we cling to throughout the whole of it that makes all the difference.
There are parts of my story that I wish were different. However, some of those parts ended in such wonderful ways that I can count all of the difficulty worth it. There are some parts I’m still walking through that feel like the longest Saturday ever… things I’m not sure will change on this side of heaven. God, in all His grace, is walking me through it, and I’m learning that it’s possible to be sad and still experience joy and peace immeasurably. He’s reminding me that things could still change in an instant; that He is always working all things together for good, even when I can’t see it yet.
If you are feeling stuck in a never-ending Saturday, can I encourage you a little? Don’t run. Stick close to Jesus. Ask the hard questions, get angry and sad if you must, but don’t give into the temptation to take off. You see, no one was able to see past that huge stone on the first Easter weekend. No one knew exactly how God was working it all together for good, but there were a few who believed He was and stuck around to see it through.
And here’s the part that should make us sigh with relief – the original twelve who split? God’s feelings about them didn’t change. Peter was filled with remorse and regret, and was forgiven and loved just the same. I’m pretty sure that if he had been given a do-over, he would have done things differently. And there are parts of my story I wish I’d handled differently… times I had the opportunity to take the high road but ran my mouth instead. Times I acted out in anger instead of stepping away for awhile. Times I pointed out someone else’s shortcomings when I should have been dealing with my own. There’s a little bit of Peter in each of us, isn’t there?
On this Saturday, the day in between the devastation and the celebration, let’s reflect on God’s faithfulness in our lives. Let’s remember that this day won’t last forever. Let’s trust that no matter the outcome, we are never alone. Let’s look for the big and little miracles that are part of each of our days. They’re there. I promise.
One way that helps me through long periods of waiting or discouragement is to keep a journal of things I am thankful for. It’s a great way to remind me of God’s faithfulness always and keeps my focus off of what I’m discouraged by. I created a printable weekly journal for you – you can print as many as you’d like.
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