Good Friday: Embracing the hard things
This year I had the opportunity to contribute to the Lenten devotional for Liberti Church Philadelphia. It’s meant to be read on Good Friday, so I wanted to share it here with you today.
A reflection on John 13:36-38
Peter genuinely believed he wouldn’t screw this up. He genuinely believed he loved his Lord fiercely enough to lose his own life for Jesus’ sake. Yet when Peter faced the reality that aligning himself with the “criminal” standing trial before the high priest meant risking his own arrest—his own possible death—he disowned Jesus. He lied.
Peter didn’t want to die. But the story of Good Friday is a story about death—Christ’s death, of course, and also our own.
Good Friday is the story of God suffering willingly. To faithfully follow Jesus that first Good Friday, Peter would have had to embrace the suffering of his Lord, to walk with his friend through the massive trauma of scourging and crucifixion. Instead Peter ran from it. He lied to others; he lied to himself.
Like Peter, we are a people who have trained ourselves to avoid sorrow. We know how to lie to save ourselves from pain, we know how to avoid the suffering around us.
To be present to the story of Good Friday, we must sit with Jesus’ sorrow. And to do so is to sit with our own. Easter’s power comes from its victory over death. Without suffering, without death, there can be no rejoicing over healing and resurrection.
Esther de Waal, in her book Living with Contradiction, speaks to our fear, our avoidance, our longing to escape vulnerability and pain. “The promise,” she says, “is not that we shall escape the hard things but that we shall be given grace to face them, to enter into them, and to come through them. The promise is not that we shall not be afraid. It is that we need not fear fear.”
It is only in Christ’s suffering that grace is ushered in. Grace—God’s rich unmerited favor—does not ignore the reality of our brokenness, our grief, the ways we hurt one another in order to escape our own pain. Grace comes to us in that pain. Grace takes Jesus’ dead corpse—his cold, torn, lifeless flesh, wrapped and waiting in the burial tomb—and breathes life into it.
In some mysterious, cosmic way, God’s grace is revealed to us through Christ’s death. That is the story of Good Friday: “Not that we shall escape the hard things but that we shall be given grace to face them…to come through them.”
Today, you are invited to embrace “the hard things” instead of running from them. You can allow God to lead you deep into your most vulnerable places. You are invited to ask yourself, “How am I lying to myself and why?”
On Good Friday, we can face our fears because we know where this story goes. We know this is the story of grace ushered in. We come through this day of sorrow to the other side, where resurrection waits.