The Rest of the Story

Disappoint: To fail to satisfy hope, desire, or expectation.

We’ve all been there. We work hard for something and it doesn’t materialize. Or we make plans and a key element falls through. Sometimes “disappointment” is an understatement for the devastation or anguish that results from dashed hopes or unmet expectations.

Photo by Jason St. Peter. Used under Creative Commons License.

Almost every year at this time, I find myself trying to imagine the experience of Christ’s friends and family on the day of his crucifixion. Disappointment hardly seems sufficient to describe what they must have felt. Horror for those who watched him die. (Among those was his mother. The bravery of her story, from beginning to end, is humbling.) Disbelief. Fear. Grief. Shame for those who couldn’t bear to see things through to the end, who hid themselves away.

I imagine the first night, as his friends and family mourned. What on earth would they have said to one another? Was any among them hopeful? I think about the women, whose job it was to clean and prepare his body but who had not been able to begin their work before the Sabbath. Did they dread it? Or were they grateful for the opportunity to serve him one last time? I think about the universality of human loss, how it is the same regardless of time or culture or age. I can imagine eyes burning from the tears they shed and the sick thumping headache that accompanies them. I have known grief so deep that anything beyond it seems improbable, unfathomable.

Photo by John. Used under Creative Commons License.

It seems ghoulish to dwell on the torture and murder of a man who lived and walked the earth more than 2000 years ago. In fact, my father once told me that Christianity was a religion of death, which was why he was so adamantly against it. But he was missing the point – as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, here’s the rest of the story.” Christ’s death wasn’t the last word. We don’t celebrate his death – we acknowledge it, with solemnity and awe and wonder. What we celebrate is his conquering of it, against all hope and against all that “reality” tells us we should expect.

Detail, The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin. Photo by Lassi Kurkijärvi. Used under a Creative Commons License.

In the middle of the things that beset us, it’s easy to forget God is at work even when we can’t see how things might get better. In the dark of the night, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with grief and worry. When we suffer a grievous loss or the failure of a longed-for dream, it’s easy to believe God has abandoned us. And it can sometimes be easier to stay in that Good Friday place of sorrow and despair than to allow ourselves to trust and hope.

But Good Friday’s good because of what came after: Sunday’s coming. And he’s waiting there for us, arms outstretched, joyous. Death has lost, and love has won.

We celebrate that he did it for us.

But as for me, God will redeem my life. He will snatch me from the power of death.

Psalm 49:15

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