Finding God Faithful

It’s called Holy Week. This week Christians honor the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, where history converges in a bloody cross on a rocky hill and the Redeemer of the world declares, “It is finished;” (John 19:30)

It’s when demons tremble and we rejoice that eternity radiates from an empty tomb, where the angel waits to declare, “He has risen.” (Mark 16:6) It seems fitting that the sin and rebellion that began in The Garden is defeated once for all in a garden…

Of course, for Christ-followers every week should be holy: dedicated or consecrated to God; devoted to the service of God. Still, this victory of death swallowed up by life must be celebrated. (I Corinthians 15:54) It’s the core of all that is, and was, and ever will be.

So how have you been celebrating this holiest of weeks? Did you begin Palm Sunday remembering the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem? As the King of Kings appears riding on a donkey does your heart thrill at echoes of “Hosanna!” and then break at the pain and suffering and betrayal you know He’ll face in the coming days? (Hebrews 12:22, Isaiah 53, Matthew 27)

Have you set aside some time each day just to contemplate the enormity and intimacy of all He was willing to do for us? Did Maundy Thursday find you revisiting the little upper room where Jesus celebrated His last supper with His disciples? Can you hear Him promise His otherworldly peace to them—and us—and then see the Lord of Lords kneel to wash their feet? (John 13:27) How well are we keeping His command to love each other as He’s loved us? How are we doing with “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid?” (John 14:27).

Yesterday was Good Friday. As I say in my book Pain & Paradox, the Path of Praise, I’ve always thought of the Friday Jesus was crucified as the darkest day for His disciples. They’d just watched their hopes and dreams for their nation’s future, and theirs, die on a cross of shame. They’d heard His promises. They’d seen His power up close and personal and experienced His love “in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). Now He was gone, and everything for which they’d hoped and worked was gone with Him. I can’t imagine the terror and confusion they felt. It just didn’t make sense, and now they cowered in the dark and asked the questions that often trouble our own hearts: Jesus, where are You? If You really love us, why?  I’ve come to wonder, though, if their darkest day wasn’t actually the one after He died—that vacuum of time between the horrendous day we now call good and the glorious day of Life Resurrected.

Easter is such a time of hope and joy, but for some the “Saturday between” seems to go on and on. We’ve all been there, or will be. Our Savior’s last command before He died was “love each other.” To my friends who are stuck in Saturday right now, please know I really do love you and pray for you, and our Father loves you more.

A few years ago I wrote an article for Lookout magazine about one of our most meaningful celebrations of Easter. It’s still one of the most precious times of my life and I want to share part of it here.

“This morning I sit in my sun-lit study relishing the springtime chirps of baby wrens outside my window, thankful that for now He’s answered my whys. It’s that time between; neither good nor bad, just a day of anticipating what is to come. Historically it’s a day of confusion and violence, but last night was sweet—a celebration of Christ’s love at the Passover Seder/Lord’s Supper we attended with our daughter and son-in-law. I cherish the Jewish traditions God has so graciously woven into our heritage as Christ-followers and often wish we understood their significance better, so we welcomed the chance to celebrate them.

We worshipped Messiah, the light of the world, as Passover candles were lit at beautifully appointed tables. Next our leader blessed the wine of sanctification, recalling how Jesus blessed the wine at His last Passover and commanded, “Take this and divide it among you” (Luke 22:17). At the ceremonial washing of hands he reminded us Jesus went beyond tradition to wash his followers’ feet as well. Then he revealed three matzah loaves representing God’s triune nature. Breaking the middle loaf and wrapping half in a napkin, he hid it for the children to find, warning we must always come as children to the Lord. To Christians, the broken bread symbolizes Christ’s body, broken for us. Hiding it wrapped in a white napkin denotes His burial and being returned celebrates His resurrection. But as bitter herbs dipped in salted water commemorated the bitterness of Israel’s oppression and our separation from God, we couldn’t have known that soon we’d feel the bitterness of earthly separation from one we loved.

I wish they’d recorded that ceremony. The ensuing months defeated all other memories, though they brought even greater appreciation for God’s perfect plan.

Jim has fallen and hit his head. Please pray!” The text came out of the blue; uncharacteristically anxious for our daughter who’s weathered so many storms with incredible confidence in the Lord.

Our larger-than-life, full-of-energy son-in-law was at his oil lease in Kansas. Normally Kim would go, but it was only a quick check and she wasn’t feeling well. We’d lived with tacit awareness that their fifteen-year age difference might eventually mean Kim could find herself without her closest companion and encourager.  She’s amazingly strong and competent, but for over thirty years they’d shared every adventure. He’d nurtured her pro-life leadership; partnered silently in the founding and growth of LifeChoices Clinic; endured years of commuting while she restructured Focus on the Family’s sanctity of life division; then advised her in her consulting company. Very few had any inkling of the time and energy—and prayer—her husband invested in her. But we knew, and sometimes wondered how she might face life without him. That sad day we discovered she’d wondered, too, but she fell on her knees before her Father and surrendered their future to Him; then posted, ‘I have faced my greatest fear and found God faithful.’

Soon word came: Jim had suffered a massive stroke. He was on his way to Kansas City where he’d remain for the next three months, fighting for his life. For those months, and the final weeks in hospice, Kim never left his side. Never did a woman fight harder for the one she loved. She talked to him, prayed over him, monitored his care, posted daily updates, and slept every night holding his hand. Friends and family brought food and clothes and went away stronger.

The last few days with Jim were true celebrations of life. Children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and family came and went, sharing stories and laughter and tears. Every surface overflowed with flowers and tokens of affection. Funny drawings and messages of love the kids left on his windows blessed caregivers and visitors alike. Then he was gone, and we watched our daughter take a deep breath, firmly grasp her Father’s hand, and begin life anew.

It’s Good Friday again, and resurrection’s promise holds more meaning than ever before. Jesus has welcomed Jim home while He adopted two precious souls into His family here. A few weeks after her grandfather’s death, Skye was joyfully baptized into Him; and her Uncle Kyle’s fiancée, for whom we’d all prayed, jubilantly claims Him, too. Jim prayed for Emily perhaps most of all and would have celebrated with exuberance their wedding at the Family Farm, centered in Christ just as he’d dreamed.

Now Friday surrenders to the ‘time between’ once more. It’s anti-climactic. No revelations or celebrations bracket this day.  It’s simply a day of awaiting the promise; for as the old preacher famously said ‘Sunday’s a-comin’!’

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate with family; cherishing traditions, watching children search for treats, wishing they wouldn’t grow up so fast. Tomorrow is Resurrection Sunday, when death was “swallowed up by life” (II Corinthians 5:4), and we’ll join the throngs in grateful praise and worship.

Tomorrow Skye will be there with us and we’ll rejoice that Life is working in her heart and other hearts we love.

Tomorrow is the day it all makes sense.

Tomorrow Christ is risen.

HE IS RISEN INDEED!

2 comments on “Finding God Faithful

  • Gwen Wadell

    April 15, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Such encouraging words! Hope for tomorrow, indeed!

  • Jenni Souders

    April 16, 2017 at 6:59 am

    Love and prayers to you and your family. Thank you for sharing–So sorry to hear of this earthly loss. We pray for an indescribable comfort and peace.to fill all of you.

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