Someone once told me that there are two types of Christians. Those who live in the shadow of the crucifixion and those who live in the light of the resurrection. Those who live in the shadow of the crucifixion often talk about Jesus’ sacrifice. The focus is on the atoning death. These Christians live on Good Friday. Those who live in the light of the resurrection often talk about Jesus’ victory. The focus is on the reality of Christ defeating sin and death. These Christians live on Easter Sunday. In both of these foci, there can be some loss of the other reality. Those focused on sacrifice may miss the totality of the victory. Those focused on Easter morning may miss the passion and pain of the cross.
What I have discovered in the mental health field, is that the world lives in neither of these realities. The world lives on Holy Saturday. They live in a place of in-between. They know the world is broken. They have experienced pain, suffering, and loss. They have been deeply wounded. They have felt depression. They know trauma. These people know the pain of Good Friday, but they don’t know the joy of Easter morning. They are stuck on Holy Saturday.
Many of these people have prayed to God only to hear the great silence. Many have felt like they were cut off from God. Can you just imagine for one moment how the disciples felt on Saturday? The one they believed to be the Messiah was murdered before their very eyes. On Holy Saturday we hear the echoes of these emotions in the Book of Lamentations 3:1-9:
I am one who has seen affliction
under the rod of God’s wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
again and again, all day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me sit in darkness
like the dead of long ago.
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has put heavy chains on me;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
he has made my paths crooked.
The people in the world that I have encountered know these emotions. They have felt these emotions, and all too often the church responds with unhelpful answers about God’s plan. Yet none of these answers fully embrace the depths of despair felt on Holy Saturday. I know this because I have lived on Holy Saturday for a long time. Years in fact! I have lived between the pain of Good Friday and the joy of Easter morning. I know what it is like to sit in silence with no answer to my prayers. I know what it is like to feel the world move around you while you struggle. I know the pain of seeing other’s joy while you live in darkness. I have heard the answer that it is all part of God’s plan, and know how unhelpful that answer is.
So what is the answer to a world that lives on Holy Saturday?
- I think we need to acknowledge it and talk about it. We need to come clean about our anguish. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.'” We sing praises all the time in church. We rarely sing songs about pain. Our Bible has multiple books, chapters, and verses about human pain. Lamentations, Psalms, Job, Ecclesiastes…all of these contain verse after verse about sorrow, grief, trauma, affliction, pain, and suffering. We don’t talk about it enough. We need to spend some time talking about Holy Saturday. We need to acknowledge what it feels like to live in pain. Many of the people who live in this pain don’t turn to the church because the church has been reluctant to acknowledge it.
- I think we need to keep reminding people of the Triduum. Christians don’t live on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, or Easter Sunday. They live in the Triduum of all three! A friend once told me if you celebrate Palm Sunday one Sunday and Easter Sunday the next, Jesus never dies. All three are important and all three contain the Good News. The Crucifixion, The Silence, The Resurrection. Unless the church becomes more vigilant about reminding us of all three of these things we will have a limited picture of Jesus. The only way I eventually moved off of Holy Saturday was someone who stood with me in my own pain and helped me see the need to acknowledge all three. I had to talk about the pain, the grief, and the hope before I could see a different picture.