When Every Hope Seems Lost
I love Easter. It is the ultimate day of rejoicing. We join in jubilation, “He is risen; he is risen indeed!”
But when I think of Good Friday, my heart sinks. It is our remembrance of the ultimate day of despair, when sin colored the world and evil seemingly triumphed.
Several years ago, I was sinking into a dull depression. Life was gray. I cried at the slightest provocation, and sometimes with no provocation at all. I was falling into a black hole, and felt powerless to stop my descent.
So much of my life had disintegrated. My husband had left our family, and our children decided that God wasn’t real. They were angry and disillusioned, taking their frustrations out at home. My health was spiraling downward, and I was struggling to even care for myself, let alone two adolescent daughters.
I was at one of the lowest points in my life. While I had previously known a deep relationship with God, I was now struggling to believe that God loved me. My relentless pain had convinced me that my situation would never change.
In short, I felt desperate.
My friends tried to help me as best they could by bringing me food, praying with me, and encouraging me to press on.
I appreciated their efforts, but nonetheless I still felt overwhelmed and discouraged. I didn’t like discussing my problems because no one could understand my pain. Loved ones offered advice, but I couldn’t even receive it.
When Dreams Have Died
One morning I finally decided to tell a few friends how I was feeling. I didn’t want to talk, but I knew that being encouraged by the saints was important. I didn’t want to pull further away from fellowship in my ongoing grief.
But soon after we started talking, I couldn’t speak anymore. I felt foolish as I just sat there crying. The comfort of friends, though well-meaning, felt empty. No one could fix this. I was beginning to wonder if even God could.
My friends sat with me, wordlessly, as I sobbed.
After a long silence, one friend spoke. I will never forget her words.
“When I think of you and pray for you, I keep seeing this image. It’s of the disciples, and Jesus’s mother, Mary, weeping at the foot of the cross. They are huddled together, trying to comfort each other. Trying to make sense of all that has happened. But it just doesn’t make sense.
“The sky is black. All hope looks lost. Their dreams have died. It seems that nothing good will ever come from this.
“To them, this day, Good Friday, is the darkest day they’ve ever known.
“But the one thing that they do not know is . . . Easter is coming.”
God Is Not Finished
Easter is coming.
I could scarcely take in the words.
None of my friends’ other words had comforted me. Now I was filled with an indescribable peace.
Of course. Easter is coming.
I stopped crying. I had never really put myself in the place of Jesus’s followers as they stood at the foot of the cross. Scripture only says, “So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (John 19:24–25).
I had never before imagined what it must have been like for Jesus’s friends on Good Friday. Those followers who had placed their faith and hope in Jesus, but were now watching him die. As I imagined how the disciples and Mary must have felt, I felt a connection to them. They knew what it was like to feel desperate. Their dreams shattered. Their lives ruined. Their plans destroyed. With nothing left to hold on to.
At that point they could only see the part of the picture they were living at the time. That’s all they had.
Like them, I couldn’t see how God could bring anything good out of my situation. But as I let this picture of Good Friday wash over me, I realized that my story wasn’t over yet. God was not finished. All hope was not lost.
Beauty from Ashes
My friend’s words brought me inexpressible comfort, both then and now. I’ve clung to that passage, that scene by the cross, for years. It gave me courage. It put my life in perspective. It reminded me that God brings beauty from ashes.
I realized that my suffering was temporary; one day it would be over. My suffering had meaning; it would not be wasted. My suffering could glorify God; it would ultimately be for my good.
While that experience was several years ago, I will never forget that day. It gave me hope. Not that my circumstances would change overnight. But that change was possible. And would one day come.
It also reminded me that I am often just looking at a snapshot, one frame in the film of my life. I have no idea what’s coming next. Perhaps my night of weeping is over and dawn is about to break, bringing with it a flood of untold joy.
Or perhaps my tears are not finished. Perhaps the night will remain for a while longer.
But this I do know: Easter is coming.
For Holy Week 2016, we are publishing a series of fresh meditations, one each for Palm Sunday and Easter and two each on the other six days. Also, our new devotional book, Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy, provides morning and evening readings for Holy Week and is available for download, free of charge.