Good Thursday

I didn’t do Lent this year for the first time in many years. In all honesty, I didn’t want to.

The past 15 months have been loss after loss in our family and in my life, and my heart was saying, enough already. There are gaping holes in every hour of my day that discipline me toward prayer and remembrance of Christ. So when I prayed to ask Him if I could have a pass on Lent this year, I was grateful it felt like His answer was Yes.

You may wonder about the title of this entry, because didn’t Christ die on a Friday? That is a conversation for another time, but I’ll tip my hand a bit: I don’t believe He did, because we know He rose on a Sunday, and you can’t get “3 days and 3 nights” (His own words from Matthew 12:40) from a death on Friday afternoon. It’s much debated (some even believe it was Wednesday), but I fall in the Thursday camp. The reason I draw attention to it here is this: suffering almost always lasts longer than we’ve scheduled.

It’s convenient for our culture to adhere to the Catholic church’s Good Friday model, to give us a day off work or school and have our 3-day weekend wrapped up nice and easy. But suffering and loss isn’t neat or convenient. In no way do I equate my suffering with Christ’s, but He’s allowed me to compare the two: “…that I may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death…” — Philippians 3:10

Suffering is the uninvited guest who stays longer than we want, certainly longer than we’re prepared for. Suffering exhausts us. It lingers long enough for friends to grow calloused, hurry you toward healing, tell you all the ways to move forward. Long enough for your eyes to run dry of tears and your throat and head to ache from sobbing. Long enough for us to forget His promises and give in to despair — like His disciples after His death — unless we’re mindful that it’s all for good.

Loss and grief are two of the primary shapers of our hearts.

Can I tell you what’s happened to my heart in this space? I’ve withdrawn. I’m sure some portion of it has been unhealthy, but the majority of it has been so healing and godward. Before His death, Christ withdrew to pray with three of His closest friends. I’m learning to grieve unto the Lord, to wrestle with Him instead of complain to friends, to ask for His counsel and direction instead of only* theirs.

*The counsel of wise advisors is always a good idea, but not to the exclusion of His counsel. And my case, I had gathered too many cooks in my kitchen, some of whom replaced Him and some of whom (if you’ll indulge me to continue the analogy) couldn’t even chop carrots.

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This is the Garden of Gethsemane. The stone gate in the top right is the Eastern Gate. Here, as He prayed, Christ had full view of that gate — the one the Roman soldiers marched through, carrying their torches and swords, as they came to arrest Him. He could’ve run across the Mount Olives hilltop and escaped into the Judean desert, but He didn’t. He entered in, embracing the Father’s plan for the redemption of His suffering and our sin.

There’s been a narrowing and a deepening in my heart and my relationships. It has made me love and long for Christ more. The cause has been nothing but bad, but God in His sovereignty and love has made it result in nothing but good.

So, to the aching: As someone who sits in the ash heaps with you, scraping my flesh with pottery… I’m sorry. I pray your heart is able to grieve unto the Lord like David in Psalm 22. I don’t know when Sunday is scheduled for your situation, but the Sunday of your salvation — the one that matters most — is the only one worth anchoring your hope in.

And to the comfortable: IF you don’t long for Jesus like you want to, try to lose something, even on purpose. Try to cut off some comfort or pleasure you indulge in. Maybe extend Lent into your regular life and use the spaces to lean into Him, even when you don’t want to. It may serve to help you remember He’s where the joy is.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13