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 thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations 3: 1-9, 19-24
Today is an uncomfortable day. Our tears from Friday have dried, but the joy of Easter morning has not arrived. We are still waiting for the good news of that empty tomb. We know it’s coming, but it’s just not here yet. We’re caught in the in-between, the space between the shock of death and the jubilation of resurrection.
But this is only because today, we are experiencing a familiar story. We know what is to come. Imagine how the disciples felt as the full weight of the death of the Messiah hit them on the first Holy Saturday – a day where the future was absolutely unknown. Although we call it “Holy Saturday” now, for these first disciples, it was anything but. It was a day filled with turmoil, fear, and confusion. Their anguish might well echo our text from Lamentations: God “has driven and brought [us] into darkness without any light” (v. 2). The deep, profound sorrow of the loss of Jesus must have seemed like heavy chains to Jesus’ followers, who had no expectation of the good news of the resurrection.
More often than not in our own lives, once we are imprisoned by grief or despair, we cannot see the hope of the resurrection and our grief covers us. A layoff destroys the sense of security. The death of a loved one obliterates dreams for the future. A cancer diagnosis trumps the possibility of remission. Depression swallows the light of day. When we feel besieged by hopelessness and enveloped by bitterness, when we call and cry for help, when our paths become crooked beyond recognition, it feels as if God shuts us out.
But maybe God understands better than we can possibly imagine. Maybe even God was wracked by grief over the death of the Son, needing just one more day to mourn before the joy of resurrection could come. When we “call and cry for help” until we are weak but feel that God “shuts out [our] prayer” (v. 8), maybe the very opposite is true. Maybe God is sitting right alongside us, overcome with grief too.
This Lenten season, let’s not rush to dry our Good Friday tears in preparation for Easter morning. Let us sit in the uncomfortable silence of Holy Saturday, making space for God to sit with us in our grief and uncertainty.
To guide your thoughts today, we offer the following activity adapted from eighteen25.com:
Gather together your materials: light colored cardstock (or any other textured drawing paper or poster board), crayons, a brush, black acrylic or tempera paint, and an etching tool (a fork, toothpick, etc).
As you put crayon to paper, place yourself in the room with the disciples that Holy Saturday reeling with lost hopes, drowning in fear and confusion and unable to see a way out. Let yourself step into a time in your life when you were underwater with shock, despair, and loss. (For this activity, the more color you place on the paper, the better.) When you are finished, brush the extra wax off of your paper. Squeeze some paint right onto your work, using the brush to apply a coat to the entire paper. Once dry, paint a second coat.
As the second coat dries, consider one or more of the following questions:
- Where does my grief lie today?
- What pain do I need to attend to with God by my side?
- What is breaking God’s heart in the world today?
In response, after the second coat of paint has dried, etch a picture onto the paper, revealing the colors – our hope and God’s steadfast love – beneath.
In that spirit, let us pray together…
Dear God of all mercy and love, sometimes I feel so lost and alone, overcome by despair and fear. Give me the courage and patience to wait on you, O Lord. I pray for the faith to know you are with me and the voice to join with women and men throughout the centuries, saying “your steadfast love never ceases and your mercies are without end. Great is your faithfulness,” O Lord my God. Amen.
Linda Kurtz is a first year M.Div./MACE student from Burke, VA. Linda served for as an AmeriCorps VISTA in Washington, DC and worked as a communications specialist for nonprofits. She is exploring a call to campus ministry – though she dreams of serving in a parish ministry context one day too.
Lisa Cross (1974) is a commissioned ruling elder (CRE) and director of the older adult ministry program at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Suffolk, VA.