Tears fill our four-year-old’s eyes, and I am tempted to jump straight into the next story in the children’s Bible, the one where the women find the tomb empty, the one where kind and merciful Jesus looks into the face of His friend, Mary, who recognizes Him by the way He calls her name.
For a moment, I can’t bear the thought of letting my precious, wide-eyed little boy sit in the sadness of the tomb until Sunday. He doesn’t remember that the story has a happy ending. He doesn’t fully understand. His eyes search mine, looking for an explanation. It occurs to me that the disciples didn’t seem to fully understand either. They couldn’t jump ahead to Sunday, because it hadn’t happened yet. What an excruciating 72 hours it must have been, their eyes searching the dark sky for some kind of answer, the earth quaking, their friend and their teacher sealed up in a tomb.
Did they wonder what had gone wrong? How could Jesus have died? Did they think of how He had healed the sick, how He had fed the thousands, how He had raised Lazarus from the dead, and wonder why He hadn’t fought back when they arrested Him, why He didn’t come down off the cross? He certainly could have. And He certainly didn’t have to wait until Sunday to rise again.
But He waited. Maybe He was teaching them to trust Him.
I want to appease my preschooler’s tears, to assure him that it all turns out ok in the end. But deep in my heart, I know that there is beauty in the waiting. Something happens in the dark tomb days, the days of tears and agony and uncertainty. He is near. And the dark days of waiting make the resurrection all the more glorious.
I don’t skip ahead. We close the children’s Bible on the page with a dark purple sky and the earth cracked in two. Jesus, who will wipe away every tear, has tears rolling down His face. Now I do too. Through all of life, I have seen it and I have known it: the days between Friday and Sunday are where He grows my faith, where I learn to trust Him.
I reflect on the year that our family has had since last Easter, the year between Seder supper with our house packed full and Easter service with baptisms in our yard, and this year where we break bread and pass the cup with just our family and will worship together on the couch on Easter morning. To say that this year has been a year of waiting feels like a vast understatement. In fact, as I recall the months, it seems like waiting on something or another, surrendering yet again to trusting God in the unknown, is what has consumed most of the last year.
Soon after Easter, we waited on medical diagnoses that would shake our world, we waited on financial provision like we have never had to before, we waited to be together as our family spent months with an ocean in between us. We waited on paperwork, on appointments, on ministry growth. And through all our waiting, all our dark, tomb season, I cried out what I imagine the disciples might have been feeling: How could this happen? Why did this happen? Did I miss something? What went wrong? I coached myself in truths that I know but that didn’t feel true – God brings good things out of the hard things. God brings new life out of the black soil of the earth, refines gold through fire, speaks life to dry bones, and brings resurrection from the shadow of the tomb.
And as always, that thought slipped in, but what if He doesn’t. What if you don’t God?
And now we wait, along with the rest of the world, looking, wondering, “When will life ever return to “normal”?” and maybe, when there is time enough to think of it between all the homeschooling and meal prepping and constant hand washing, “How catastrophic will this all be?”
There is no doubt we are between a Friday and a Sunday here. Us, and the whole world.
Good Friday holds the answer to that always sneaky question, though, because today, today, God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. And if God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32).
So what if instead of longing to skip ahead to the next story, the next season, we learn to trust God in the in between.
All things. All that we need. Today, He graciously gives us His Son, and He graciously gives us all that we need – The strength to endure. The patience to be gentle. The joy to continue to worship even in suffering, chaos or anxiety. And the promise of Sunday – eternal life. When we trust Him, even the ugly seasons can be beautiful.
Today, we wait. Now, maybe more than ever, we realize that we don’t know what the future holds, but unlike the disciples, we do know the ending of the story. Jesus will have the final word.
I think of Mary. I think of the way her heart must have leapt when she recognized Jesus in the garden outside the tomb as He said her name.
“I have seen the Lord!” she proclaimed, her hope restored. Surely, suffering didn’t end for Mary on that day. Surely, life held trials and persecutions, probably more than I can imagine. But I bet she never forgot His gaze on her that resurrection morning, made possible only by His death and burial days prior.
Sometimes, our trials still us so that He can be near. Sometimes, our tears quiet us so that we can hear His voice. Sometimes, the long, dark night makes the morning all the more glorious. Always, we have this Easter promise that He who did not spare His own Son will give us what we need to endure so that we will be with Him in glory. Glory, where Jesus, whose tear stained face hung on the cross will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
Today we wait. But we wait in hope. For the empty tomb on Sunday morning, for our coming King, for the end of a world-wide pandemic, perhaps for resolution of our own personal suffering, and for and Eternal Kingdom that can never be shaken, no matter the darkness here and now.
I pray today that you feel His gaze upon you, a love so enduring that it doesn’t fade no matter what comes. I pray that He will grow you in these in between days, and that you will recognize Him by the way He calls your name. I pray that as we wait, Jesus will indeed give you all that you need, and I believe that He will.
Happy Resurrection, friends.