The Day In Between

In between the day we remember Jesus dying a brutal death on the cross and the day he rose from the dead, we have this day of silence. It was a day of brokenness, deep sorrow, and heavy questions. Outwardly, it looked like the devil had won. Wrapped in soft linen, Jesus’ body was buried in a tomb. He had not taken himself off the cross, he had not called down an army of angels, and he had not even yelled insults from the rough tree. Instead, offering forgiveness to his killers, he simply placed his spirit in his Father’s hands and died.

To Jesus’ followers, it probably looked like everything had come to a close. For Peter, it was likely a day of deep anguish and shame. For the other disciples, it surely carried much grief and loss. The acrid tastes of extreme emptiness, inconsolable sorrow, and unending questions would have been nearly too much to bear. Simply put, it was a hard day.

In pondering that day of in-between, two things stand out:

From the ashes, beauty will rise

In the aftermath of Good Friday, it looked like all was lost. Hopeless. Death was still king. Could anything good come from so much bad?

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. (1 Cor. 15:20a)

From the ashes of death and loss, Jesus broke in. In the strength of the undefeated King he truly is, he smashed Death into the ground. From the horribleness of Friday, hope rose with the Son of God.

Even when our situations in life tell us that nothing good could come from the wreckage, we are not without hope. We may be crushed, but we are not in despair. We may be dying to live, but because of Jesus, live we will. We may be broken beyond recognition, but we are not destroyed. We may be utterly forsaken, but we are never alone. In great sorrow, but still rejoicing (2 Cor. 4:8-18; 6:4-10).

Having nothing, yet possessing everything. (2 Cor. 6:10)

Because of Jesus, we have everything. These trials and the smoldering ashes they leave behind are working in us an “eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). One day, we won’t even think of mentioning the great suffering and sorrow we experienced down here, because it will seem so very, very small and weightless compared to the greatness of being with Jesus.

Everything is held in sovereign hands

There is a great assurance to be had in knowing that nothing will fall into our lives that has not already been sifted through the sovereign, gracious hands of God. No sickness, no pain, no loss, no death, no nothing has ever taken God by surprise. And nothing ever will.

Even when that day before Jesus rose looked hopeless, God still had it.

Death did not have a hold on Jesus, because God was always in control. He is the one who calms storms, commands seas to give up their dead and raises the dead, tells the number of the stars, knows every hair on our heads, counts every tear on our faces, and brings forth the seasons in his time (Mark 4:39-41, Rev. 20:13, John 11, Ps. 147:4, Luke 12:7, Ps. 56:8, Job 38). This is our God.

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7)

Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)

In his sovereignty, God saw the days and times of our lives long before we ever took our first breaths, dreamed our first dreams, and cried our first tears. How precious it is to know that the very hands that were nailed to a tree for each one of our sins are the very same hands that created us from dust and will sustain us until we are with Jesus forever.

Even on that middle day, when things looked hopeless, God was still reigning. Jesus would rise. Death did not win. And even in our middle days (or years), when things appear hopeless to us, God is still reigning. Sovereign hands of infinite kindness hold each of our moments and will safely bring us home to Jesus.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim. 4:18)


The Greatest Grief

Heart Butte, MT

A year ago, my family gathered for a quiet graveside service to remember the life of my grandpa. The wind was strong, the harmonicas were beautiful, the memories were precious, and the time together was all of that and then some. It was too early for flowers to poke up in the earth, too cold for buds to pop out on the wet trees, too soon for life to completely cover emptiness.

We grieved together, prayed together, and continued to live life together. In some ways, grief was a kind friend in pointing our eyes to Christ, the one who smashed death when he died on the cross. The one life that mattered most died like all of us will someday. But the one grave that mattered most of all turned up empty three days later. This one empty tomb gives hope that all graves will burst open with shouts of praise to the death-conquering One.

In all of life, we grieve. We grieve for losses large and small—relationships, jobs, health, a life we never had, and thousands of other things that break our hearts. We mourn over loss of physical life. We cry when dust returns to dust, when death drops our beloved friends and family members into the open hands of the Savior who died for them and us. We grieve as people who loved well and lost hard. We lament the loss of life cut off too soon. Simply put, we cry a lot and often in the course of a simple life.

But as much as life breaks us when death snatches our believing friends away, there is a greater grief than this.

In the course of the past couple weeks, two people who made an impact on my life died. Both people hardened by the pain of life and steeped in bitterness and seclusion. Broken people who desperately needed Jesus. God knows their final moments, but from all appearances, both of them died without believing, trusting in, and clinging to Jesus.

And that is the greatest grief. These are deaths to grieve deeply over. These are deaths that break our hearts in hard ways. But these are also deaths that should drive us into the arms of Jesus, with hearts overflowing in gratitude that he loved us first, commanded our spiritually dead corpses to breathe, and saved us from living a life and dying a death without him.

Because I cannot imagine a life without Jesus, it is a great pain to think of people having lived their entire lives cut off from the one who is what life is all about. It moves me to tears to think about people spending every waking moment and every sleeping breath not realizing that they are missing out on something immensely precious. And it should break our hearts that people we know and people we don’t are living and dying without a love so strong, so rich, so beautiful.

We grieve often and we grieve a lot. And well we should. Along with Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb, we should be outraged at death. We should let death upset us. We should be indignant that the sickness of sin sucks the God-given breath of life right out of our friends and acquaintances.

And we should be brokenhearted that there is an answer to death but so many souls die without knowing that this answer has a name—Jesus.

This is the greatest grief.