Love, Suffering, Grief, and Joy: The Last Four Days of Holy Week

If you were asked to associate one word each for the four days from Maundy Thursday to Easter, what would those four words be? For me, they are as follows:

Maundy Thursday – Love

 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. –John 13:34

Jesus’ new commandment is intended for the disciples’ welfare, for them to enjoy lives of meaning and purpose. In his ministry, he gives us a model of what love is and how it’s supposed to be applied in life. He wants us to know that if we’ll live our lives in and with his love (and his help), we’ll be fulfilled in ways we couldn’t even imagine. What his love for us means is that whatever troubles and grief come our way, whatever betrayals and losses we experience, Jesus hangs on to us even when we can’t hang on to him, and he brings us safely home.

Today: Consider those whom you feel have betrayed you or spoken against you. In light of Jesus’ command, set aside any resentment or bitterness and pray that Christ’s love will fill your heart and mind.

Good Friday – Suffering

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? –Psalm 22:1

Those words first spoken by King David centuries earlier, were uttered by Jesus on the cross. He felt abandoned by his Father as he took upon himself the weight of the world’s sin. So if you feel like God has dumped you, remember you’re not the only one to feel that way. But if you continue reading the Psalm, you will know that David was heard and vindicated. In the Gospels, we learn Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day to eternal glory. What we need to keep in mind is that the suffering we go through has a purpose. It is intended to mature us, make us stronger, and enable us to bear witness, and comfort others with Christ’s message of hope, rescue, and redemption.

Today: If you feel God has abandoned you, seek and ask him to reveal his presence in your life. Read Psalm 86 and find someone who will pray with you during this time in your life.

Saturday (Holy Saturday) – Grief

For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. –Lamentations 3:31–33

Yes, on Saturday, for the disciples, the future looked very bleak. Their beloved Master had been brutally crucified and now lay resting in the tomb. They believed his message, and had hope in some ultimate resurrection. But, unlike us, there weren’t exactly sure about it. Lamentations tells us that God is behind both the good and the bad we experience. Sometimes God jolts us into living faith if he knows that we have fallen asleep at the wheel and are in danger of driving off the cliff. Whatever means he uses, we can be sure, even in the midst of affliction and suffering, our welfare is behind them. And the death that was due to us because of our sin was taken upon Christ. It was entirely absorbed for us by his act of self-sacrifice. We are forgiven, our slate is clear, nothing stands against us, and we are free to enjoy the favor of God forever. Now go back to the darkest night of the disciples’ life, if they knew what we know, how would that have changed their grief?

Today: List the darkest day or days of life. Then write down the ways God rescued you in them. If you are still waiting for a rescue, read Psalm 37, Psalm 69, or Psalm 91.

Easter Sunday – Joy!

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” ~1 Corinthians 15:51–55

If our very bodies can be brought back to life (even greater life than before), then the lesser things of life are equally open to restoration and transformation. Our jobs can be lost, our careers can take a downward turn, our dreams may come crashing down in a single afternoon, but there is nothing that can be lost in this world that is beyond recovery.

In Revelation 21:4, we read “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

In the last act of history, God himself appears on the scene again to rule in person over his beloved creation and to banish forever all evil, tears, pain, bitterness, and death. Paradise is restored. And that is God’s last word pronounced over our universe. All pain, disillusionment, failure, distress, disappointment, and loss won’t even be a memory. The Good News is not just for then, but for now. Thank God for the rescue you so desperately need and which he is bringing to you.

Today: Continually thank and praise God for the gift of Jesus—for his redeeming power and guaranteed presence with us every minute until we dwell eternally with him. 

Joining you in thanking God for his love, mercy, and faithfulness. May you and yours enjoy a wonderful, joy-filled Easter season.

John I. Snyder
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