Sarah Small – Head of Eden Network
If I’m honest I’ve never really liked Good Friday. As a child it was a strange sombre sort of day which involved an extra trip to church. As a student I attempted to get to grips with the day by attending a screening of the Passion of the Christ. I hated it from start to finish. I don’t like blood, I don’t like gore, it was all too intense and too painful. Compared to Easter Sunday, with its celebration and excesses, there was no comparison. It was Bad Friday, Good Sunday so far as I was concerned!
And yet in recent years, particularly since becoming involved with Eden, I’ve come to rethink Good Friday. I’ve come to realise that if we have anything to do with people and brokenness, then it provides us with an unmissable opportunity.
After a few years as an Eden volunteer on an estate in South Manchester I noticed something that troubled me. I began to realise that on a Sunday when we came together to worship God, we sang his praises, we rejoiced in his victory and we told testimonies of breakthrough. We gave time and language to God’s goodness, his faithfulness, and the positive effects of his work in our lives. And of course, it was right that we did so. We are a people of hope, and we are made to praise God. However, what we didn’t give time, or have language for was the fact that serious illness continued to plague new members of our church and that hurt us. We didn’t have the language to ask where God was when relationships began to break down, when lies were told, when people continued to be the victim of sustained bullying or crime. We didn’t have the framework to bring the injustices that we witnessed daily to God as part of our time together. We were great at celebrating the good stuff, but what did we do with the bad? Where could we take it?
As I thought more about it, I realised that as a society we’re poor at facing up to pain or disappointment and to do so it mainly just awkward. It wasn’t just a problem in church, it was everywhere. Whether it was the British stiff upper lip thing, or the Facebook curated pictures of life’s successes, there seemed to be no place for pain that we could really deal with.
What changed things for me was discovering the work of renowned Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann. In his books about the Psalms he notes that we have largely ignored the Psalms of lament, those that express pain, grief, disappointment and anger. And yet on Good Friday Jesus himself gave voice to his pain on the cross by quoting one of these, Psalm 22:1, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34).
Even on the cross, in the midst of his own pain, Jesus taught us. He taught us that it’s okay to cry out to God, that there are words already written in the Bible for us to use when our own words fail us. There’s a whole heap of pain in the pages of the Bible, it’s a normal human experience. It’s not the final word, but it is an important word.
So, this Good Friday, if you’re experiencing frustration, pain or disappointment then why not speak it out. Begin to learn the ‘Friday voice of Faith’. It might feel awkward at first, but it’s there for a reason. God wants us to bring him our highs and our lows. He’s keen to meet us in both. You can use his word or write your own. But don’t run past this opportunity straight to celebration. Sunday is coming but, as Brueggemann says, ‘the important stuff happened on Friday’. So, let’s make it important again and see what God will do as we offer him our brokenness.
Walter Brueggemann, “The Friday Voice of Faith,” Calvin Theological Journal 36 (2001)