HOLY WEEK DEVOTION #6: Good Grief
PATREEYA PRASERTVIT | APRIL 19, 2019 | 4 MIN READ
Sometimes I wonder about who had the audacity to name today “Good Friday.”
“Good” is four out of five stars on Yelp. “Good” is what you say when you don’t want to answer any more questions. “Good” is an adjective too easily given.
Betrayal by a close friend? A cruel and shameful death? Public humiliation and flogging? Systemic injustice? The death of hope? To call it good seems like a cruel practice in irony.
Jesus began Friday in the garden, fully aware of the “goodness” that awaited him, praying that there might be another way.
“When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow” (Luke 22:45).
We live in a world that is exhausted from sorrow. Our flags live at half-mast, barely reaching their peak before they are pulled down again by an unthinkable tragedy. Our hearts live at half-mast, growing tired of the constant stream of bad news, wondering if there is anything to do with sadness besides to sit and feel tired.
Jesus took his grief to the garden. He brought his friends along. He prayed and pleaded and wept and bled that it would pass, that God would change something. He sought the goodness of God in the bleakness of his circumstances.
We often give the disciples a hard time for falling asleep when their friend was so clearly in pain, but maybe that was all they had energy to do. They were exhausted by their master’s sorrow.
They were exhausted from the grief. Not even knowing the full extent that Jesus would have to endure, yet wondering how their Master, the man who could do anything and feared nothing, could be so in distress about anything to come. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t good.
Grief is a many-headed beast. It takes you out, disorients you; it makes you feel unproductive, helpless. It affects not just those who grieve, but also those who surround it. That’s why we struggle to find words, why we bring flowers or casseroles, because what is there to do with grief except sit in it and wait for it to pass?
When I was going through a season of grief not too long ago, I became obsessed with its stages. Something so complex, beaten down and simplified into five (or seven, depending on your model) stages: denial — anger — bargaining — depression — acceptance. I held onto it like it was a roadmap out of the pain, checking every day to see how far I’d gone and how far I had left to go.
With every new wave of emotion, I’d check: Have I moved to the next phase yet? Am I almost out of the woods?
Only after skipping denial and going to straight to anger, jumping to depression and back to anger again, did I begin to admit that maybe it wasn’t such a straight shot.
But grief is a part of walking down the road to Golgotha with our Savior. It is a part of carrying our cross, as he has declared all his disciples must do. The irony is that grief and good often go hand in hand, because if we are helpless we are the perfect candidates for help. If we are powerless, we become open to another Power outside of our own.
Barbara Brown Taylor writes, “I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
What can we learn from sitting in grief? What can we learn of goodness when it feels too far to be found?
Jesus sat in the garden knowing all that lay ahead, and yet praying to his Good Father.
God formed the world and humanity, knowing it would eventually be tainted, broken, spoiled — and still, He had the audacity to call it “good” and to rest.
What an oxymoron to the watching world, to carry a cross and to call it “Good.” What an impossible worldview, to fully mourn the brokenness we experience and still believe in a good God. What a defiant hope it would take, to not run from the brokenness of our world and instead to run towards a sovereign God we cannot always understand.
Holding the pain in one hand and the goodness of God in the other, it would stretch us out across the unbearable tension of this life. It would break us. It would crucify us.
Only the foolish call today Good.
Only the foolish move towards grief, knowing that there is the hope of something good on the other side of this cross.
Only the foolish would hope in the impossible.
What are you grieving today? What is the invitation in the grief?
“I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14)
Patreeya Prasertvit considers herself a "Cajun Asian," having grown up in Bangkok and Baton Rouge. Although raised in a predominantly Buddhist home, Patreeya now disciples and trains women to live out the gospel working with Cru in Berkeley, CA. She is part of Solano Community Church in Albany. You'll find her compulsively browsing bookstores, feeding anyone who visits, and eating her way through the Bay Area. Read more from her at www.patreeya.com.