It’s Monday of Holy Week as I write this. The next few days will be filled with all sorts of special activities, from Easter Egg hunts to special church services – events both secular and sacred. Social media is flooded with all sorts of memes, featuring pictures of a cross, an empty tomb, and more, and lots of Bible quotations. People keep repeating lots of bumper sticker theology, but I wonder how many of us are actually thinking about the truth we say we are professing.
Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Yes, we NEED to talk about Jesus’ suffering. We must teach and understand the atoning work of Christ on the cross. And by all means, we should exult – and exalt – the resurrection. The historical fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the founding principle on which Christianity is based.
But what about those who are still waiting for God to come through for them? They want to believe in God, but they’re not seeing the victories and the good times that others are talking about. Maybe you can relate to:
- A loved one who died, even in the face of many, many prayers.
- A marriage that shattered, in spite of your best efforts.
- A job that didn’t materialize.
The awful moment has passed. You’ve left the hospital, the police station, the cemetery. Now you’re stuck with shattered hopes, broken dreams, and wounded faith. You want to believe that God will come through and make it all okay, but you are afraid to hope too much. Well-meaning friends tell you that God will not put more on you than you can bear, and to just keep praying for the victory. The Friday of your crisis is over, but you haven’t seen the Sunday morning of your renewed hopes yet.
You’re stuck in Saturday.
Saturday is a terrible place to be. It was the attitude of Saturday that left the disciples hiding behind locked doors out of fear (John 20:19). It was the same attitude of despair you can hear in the words of Cleopas, even as they encountered the Stranger on the road to Emmaus – “But we had hoped…” (Luke 24:21).
Surely you have experienced a Saturday. God hasn’t done things in a way that makes sense. Your expectations have been turned completely upside-down. So now what?
While on the cross, Jesus quoted from Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Like any good Jewish boy, Jesus knew He didn’t have to quote an entire passage, in order to reference that text. And Psalm 22, the crucifixion psalm, also contains some of the most confident outpouring of hope in the entire Old Testament.
Psalm 22 may be the most – human – of any psalm ever written. Who has not felt abandoned by God? Who has not felt forsaken? But I reject the theology that says that God “turned his back” on Jesus here. I think Jesus was experiencing the very human emotion of feeling distant from God. Haven’t you ever felt that way? When you felt alone and abandoned, had God really turned His back on you? Of course not. And I don’t think God did here, either.
Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 to remind Himself of its glorious truth – that God is still God, even when I can’t figure out what’s going on. God is still God, even when I can’t feel Him. In Psalm 22, David pours out his heart to remind himself that even though it’s bad right now, God has always come through before, and He will again. Psalm 22 begins in despair but ends in triumph.
Faith is hard when you’re in a Saturday. It’s easy to feel offended by what God has – or has not – done. The enemy is constantly in your ear, telling you that God is not to be trusted, to cut your losses and move on. Or maybe just lower your expectations, go through the motion of going to church, but don’t risk too much.
Saturdays are long and painful, but there IS hope. Don’t give up on God, and don’t give in to despair. Keep on trusting. Keep on hoping. Keep on praying.