I’m sitting here on this “Silent Saturday,” reflecting on all that went on the weekend that Jesus went to the cross and died for all humankind. There is always such focus on Good Friday and even Holy Thursday, but we often just skip over the day that is referred to as “Silent Saturday,” a day that Jesus spent silent in the tomb before rising. It was a strange day for His followers, and it feels that way again to me today.
Silent Saturday for the followers of Christ was a terrible day. The previous day, their Savior had been brutally beaten to the point of being unrecognizable and had died a horrible death on the cross. The people who had believed in Him were crushed, scared, and worried about what the future would hold. They heard Him promise that He would rise again on the third day, but they doubted it. The Bible doesn’t come right out and say it, but if they believed His promise with all their hearts, they would have been waiting expectantly at the tomb on Sunday to see it happen. Instead, they were afraid. It was extremely silent for them. Fear hovered over them while darkness hovered in the tomb. Waiting is always the hardest part.
There is something about silence and darkness that makes most of us uncomfortable. The disciples were hiding for their lives. How discouraging it must have been to wonder if everything they had sacrificed for Christ and all they had believed to be true would end like this – huddling together in fear of what would come next. As I sat here pondering how difficult the silence was for the disciples back then, I realized how hard it is for me over 2000 years later.
All of us have experienced our own personal versions of “Silent Saturday.” We face times when we have lived from a place of faith in God and His promises, and hold tight to our relationship with Jesus, believing what He has said, even when we sometimes don’t fully understand it. We follow; we believe; we trust. We marvel when we see God’s hand working in our lives or the lives of those around us, but then we find ourselves in a Silent Saturday. We pray for God’s guidance or His help, but it seems He is silent, so we assume He is gone and start to question what will happen to us in His absence. We feel scared, helpless, and if we are honest, we sometimes feel betrayed, as if everything we have done has been for nothing! Where is God?! Why won’t He answer me? Why won’t He help me?! The longer the silence, the more scared or disillusioned we become. Depression sets in and we huddle down and start trying to figure out what we should do next to protect ourselves, because obviously God has let us down.
The past few months in my life have been filled with terrible events and great losses and griefs, and they just keep coming. It is a strange season of life, and I have said to those closest to me, “If God were merciful,” or “I wish God would just be merciful and…,” and then I would add whatever I felt that would be to the end of that statement. Yesterday I uttered those words again and then it hit me: When I make those kinds of statements, what I am really saying is “God is NOT merciful.” That realization hit me right in the heart. The same thing happens when I say, “I wish God would be gracious and…,” again, fill in the blanks at the end of that statement with whatever it is you think should happen in a given situation, or with what you want to happen. I guess I just never thought about the fact that when I start stating what I think would be merciful or gracious, then I have put my knowledge and opinion above that of the One who knows everything and is working everything for my good.
The disciples were already confused and fearful when Jesus was arrested. They watched Him willingly lay down His life when they knew He had the power to strike back at those who were harming Him. Surely they felt like their entire world was falling apart and the future was too dark to see. Jesus was dead and in the tomb; Darkness set in and the silence became deafening. What I always found interesting was that Jesus had told them multiple times what He was doing and why He was doing it, but they just kept missing it. (Matthew 16:21 and 20:17-19) The problem wasn’t that they hadn’t been told, but rather that they never fully understood – or didn’t want to understand. Jesus even told the disciples “I am telling you now before it happens so that when it does happen, you will believe that I am who I am.” (John 13:19) How many times has the same thing happened to me because I was blinded by my own ideas of what should happen, based on an incorrect interpretation of what God has said to me through His word? Just like the disciples, sometimes I can’t get out of my own way to see His.
In times of great trouble, grief, fear and worry, we often search for meaning. We search for answers and guidance. We search for shelter and comfort. We struggle against the silence we are experiencing, and then start doubting everything we ever believed. The longer we wait, the harder it is to keep the darkness from overtaking us and reducing us to terrified people, hiding and just hoping to survive. I know it happens, because I often live it myself. There are times when I am drowning in fear and pain in my heart and soul, and the longer the darkness lasts, the harder it is to not lose faith. The longer it is quiet, the more tempted I am to believe this is what life is going to be like forever, and that maybe I was wrong in what I believed. In a nutshell, Silent Saturday stinks!
Most of you have seen the holy week quote that says, “It’s Friday, but Sunday is coming!” I’ve always looked at that as a reference to the miraculous resurrection that secured my eternal life as a believer, but today it suddenly meant something else. Sunday isn’t just about my salvation, but about resurrecting hope and faith in me (and in us). There is a “Sunday” coming in my life where I will see God move in ways that are impossible for me to understand while I am in the midst of silent but excruciating pain. The marvelous truth about my Silent Saturday is that no matter what I feel, it doesn’t change the fact that God is working things out behind the scenes. He has made deep and abiding promises to me, and He doesn’t have to keep repeating them in order for them to be true. On the other hand, sometimes I need to go back and read those promises again, and read that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, so that I remember they are true. I need to remember it so that I can breathe in the silence and still have sight in the darkness.
I am so grateful the original Silent Saturday didn’t last, and on Sunday morning, the grave burst open and Jesus walked out ALIVE! But this year, I am also grateful to remember that the Silent Saturdays of our lives don’t last either. I’m not saying these seasons of life are easy, by any stretch, and we are all in different places of faith at different times. But just as the disciples could have benefited from reminding each other of the truth, and holding each other’s hands in moments when the fear or sadness was too much to bear, we can lean on our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same for us (and us for them) as we trudge through the difficult times in life.
For the disciples, Friday was shocking and devastating, Saturday was silent and incapacitating both in action and in their hearts, but Sunday changed EVERYTHING! I read a statement that said, “Good Friday was the worst Friday until Sunday.” There is such truth in that statement, and the same holds true in the challenging times in our lives. When we experience tragedy or trouble, there isn’t anything good about it in our minds. We are left in places where the silence is deafening, and we are gutted with incapacitating fear or grief. We have to wait, and doing so makes us wonder and feel like the silence will never end, but then we finally step into the sun of a new day. Things start becoming clear and we see the proof that God was working even when we didn’t see it or didn’t understand. We then rejoice, celebrate and are changed by what we have witnessed. God has promised us that our trials and testing of our faith is for our good. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
“Fridays” beat us down, “Saturdays” leave us reeling, confused, and grieving, but when “Sunday” comes, we can finally see good in our trials and the strengthening of our faith through the silences. So on resurrection Sunday, pause and thank God not just for everything He did so that you can live eternally, but also for all He does to constantly resurrect our faith and hope as he works all things for our good. We can’t see what He has in store, and waiting is definitely the hardest part, but He knows that when the night is over, He is going to knock our socks off! Joy comes in the morning, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait!