I’m in a precarious position as I write this column. It is the Friday before Palm Sunday. We are but a few days from Holy Week. This column will be published on Holy Thursday, just as the most somber days of the year begin. Three days later, it will be Easter, the most jubilant day of the year.
As I write, my husband’s mother hangs on to the faintest whisper of life. Before I hit “send,” she could be gone.
When will you read this? In the silence of Good Friday afternoon, or Easter Monday, as you catch your breath after a day of joyous celebration? The line is so fine this week of the liturgical year: life and death, grief and joy, fear and hope.
Faith finds us there, along that fine line. Faith — like a muscle that is stretched and stressed and, please God, strengthened in the moments of grief — carries us from the grief to the joy, from the fear to the hope. There on the death side of the fine line, though, waiting and hoping to hope in joy, we are brokenhearted. It is the person of Jesus who sits with us in Gethsemane, who weeps with us at the tomb, who gives us reason to rejoice on the glorious morning of new life.
We hear the promise in the dark of night: The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Ps 34:18). Deep grief changes lives. Deep grief tests souls by stretching taut against every good thing we’ve ever believed and straining against the faith we’ve always taken for granted. Under the weight of sadness, hearts bow and souls cry out in despair. The question is whether we cry out to the Lord who has taken all of our grief upon His own shoulders. Will we let Him come close to our broken hearts? Curled up tightly, defensive against the pain, we are tempted like never before to shut Him out, disbelieving that any good God would allow the dark of a Friday on Calvary. Will we exercise our faith and let it grow in the pain? Will we test it and find that God truly is good, all the time, even on the grief side of the fine line? Will we believe in the triumph of Easter morning?
Cellophane Easter grass strewn across the living room floor and half-eaten chocolate bunnies are the stuff of Sunday afternoon. But Easter, true Easter, lives most gloriously in the soul of the person who has wrestled grief and the doubt it sows in one’s faith and lived to know that Jesus is real. We have to make the first move, however tentative it is. We have to reach for Jesus and ask Him to walk along the fine line. Part of growing in faith is making a decision to believe and to be vulnerable in belief. Strengthening faith means living on the grief side of the fine line and deciding that we trust God’s plan and, further, that we want Him to be our safe place. We want Him to take us to the other side, the joy side. Slowly, we unfurl from our defensive posture and let our souls inhale grace.