I love that the church calendar gives us time to reflect on the black despair of the death of Jesus before we move onto celebrating his rising from the dead. It is his rising from the dead that saved us, that opened up the opportunity of relationship with God and that gave us hope. But it is his death and the time between Friday and Sunday that remind us that God knows the pain of despair.
I was recently asked why I don’t believe that God will heal me. My instinctive response was ‘I do!’, but the more I think about that question the more I become aware of the fact that I have been steadily walking away from hope. I have been settling myself into life at a bit of a distance from God, because really, what good is he doing anyway? I am still struggling every day under the weight of a depression that, no matter how happy I am, insists that I can’t cope; anxiety, that makes any crowded space cause for much medication and panic; and an exhaustion, that increasingly is turning me into a recluse.
Becoming increasingly aware of this, I had big plans for lent. Read my bible, reconnect with God, find that hope again. They didn’t really work out. Yet, as I approached Easter I found that really, I had very little hope at all. I was increasingly aware that I was asking that question that I have, for the past few years, been refusing to ask. Why?
I have always had such issue with that question, because I have always been determined that my hope was not in what happens in this world, but in Jesus. Yet, I found I had lost that hope. It wasn’t in Jesus anymore. Today, as I think of the death of Christ, I understand more than I ever have, that sense of despair his diciples must have had. My hope was founded in him, and he was gone, no longer tangible and out of my reach.
When we talk about the story of our salvation, so often we forget that for a moment all felt lost. We forget that God doesn’t just understand the theory of loss and despair but that he knows the reality of it. Jesus cried out on the cross ‘why have you forsaken me?’ and for a time, all was black. All hope diminished and gone.
I love that we have the time to reflect on this loss. In the reflection of Christ’s depair, I find that I have new hope. He asked ‘why?’ and he got no answer. He was in despair and no help was apparent. And then, hope was born. It is this hope that I now cling to. Last Saturday someone put it like this ‘hope is not in the outcome to our prayers, but in Jesus’ and it is in this that I now find I hope again.
It sounds like the same hope I had before, and I can’t really explain what is different. But I am thankful for the time to despair with the disciples, because it has made the bright light of the ressurection feel so much more real.
As we celebrate Easter this year, remember that for some, hope is a hard thing to find. Sometimes it can feel like Easter is never going to come, that time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday feels like it will never end. Like Jesus on the cross, we can feel forsaken and lost. We have a God who can empathise with that, who will sit with us in it, who will encourage us but not hurry us, who knows the pain of despair.