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Saturday: The Day Stuck Between Despair and Hope

Saturday. The day stuck between the broken day of Good Friday and the triumphant day of Resurrection Sunday. Admittedly, I haven’t paid much attention to this day at all, because it doesn’t really seem all that important. It’s kind of the lull between the little holiday that gets a nod and a real holiday. The one filled with preparation for the big day to come. There aren’t any church services commemorating it, holidays attributed to it or anything very special about it at all.  It’s the day stuck between.  The nothing day. The waiting day.

Last year I read the book, Who is this Man?:  The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus by John Ortberg and my view of this unremarkable day changed. Something gripped me. There is a whole chapter in the book devoted to Saturday.  Saturday – the in between day.  The one stuck in the middle of despair and hope and I realized something. We all have our Saturdays in life.

The Saturdays can be a SATURDAY where our heart has been ripped out, our life has been turned upside down and things will simply never be the same.  A loved one tragically dies, a marriage is suddenly blown apart, a deadly disease is diagnosed, a betrayal happens or there is a sudden loss of some kind. A friend of mine is in a Saturday like this right now.  Just at the turn of the new year,   her husband’s younger brother and sister were killed in a tragic car accident at the same time.  Devastating, life altering and hard to understand.   There are other Saturdays where we constantly live with the ache of infertility, a wayward child, a failing business, a life disappointment, situations where we can’t see a way out, a slowly dying marriage, an unfulfilled desire to be married, an emptiness over a loss on a previous SATURDAY, a tiring, stubborn sickness or disease, or even a hopelessness in our own heart we can neither identify or shake.  These are the Saturdays that can make us tired, hopeless and impact every area of our life.  These are the long and draining Saturdays – you know the ones.  Then there are the little Saturdays where there is a situation that just weighs on us.  It may not affect every area of our life, but we need God to come through.

Saturday in the Resurrection story is the day where many hung between despair and hope, but a very few knew or believed that hope was coming. The curtain in the temple tore, but what did that even mean if the man who was supposed to be God was dead?  We now know because we have the whole story, but from their point of view, Hope was crucified.

Their ‘Deliverer’ was  hung from a cross fit for criminals.  Not only was He not a deliverer, He was not delivered.  

Saturday was a day filled with shame. They must have been duped.  This man who they had banked everything on was not what they had hoped.  Can you imagine what people were saying?  What the disciples were thinking?  When we imagine we can hear echoes from our own heart of things we’ve felt and heard on our own Saturdays.  Peter denied even knowing Jesus the night before.  

It was a day filled with fear. The many disciples could be executed for their association with the now dead Messiah. Not just the known twelve, but the many others who followed. It really makes sense to me that Peter would deny Jesus in light of the circumstances.  We read the story and think we would never do that, but from what he knew, the man he had followed was dead and if he fessed up and admitted knowing Him, he’d be dead too.  It was easy to not deny Jesus when Jesus was there, but what about when Hope was gone?  What about when things didn’t look the way they were supposed to?  What about when the man he’d given up his life for had hung on a tree and buried with all the hope and promises He had brought with Him?

The Messiah was supposed to save and bring freedom, but instead they were now in worse situations than before. They were brokenhearted, apparent failures who appeared foolish and ignorant.  They had seen their Hope crucified.  Their Hope wasn’t crucified quietly, but loudly for all to see.  “This man you hoped in?  I’m sorry – you were a little confused about Him.  He was pretty much a regular guy.  There have been many so-called messiah’s.  He wasn’t the one either.  Yeah, He did some pretty amazing things, but ultimately He must not have been who you thought He was.”  Many had given up their lives and livelihoods because they had believed in this man.  They took a risk and had faith that this was truly their Deliverer.  A lot was at stake.  Sure they had seen Him do miraculous things, but what did it matter if he was dead?  This is not what they had given their life for and this is not how they envisioned things playing out.

But then there was this faint remembrance.  “Wait!  Didn’t Jesus say something about Him suffering and dying?  Maybe there was more to this than they could see.  Could God be up to something?” Perhaps a little flicker of hope in their heart, but did they dare risk believing again? Believing had brought much disappointment.  When we lose someone important to us, our thoughts cannot help but go back to our last conversations and comb them for meaning.  We hang on every word because they are what we have left.  Perhaps, some of Jesus’ followers began to think about some of the last conversations and remembered the one in Mark 8:31 where Jesus told them that He would be killed and Peter repriminded Him.

As people, we have a habit of not listening to things that don’t fit with how we want things to go.  Maybe he thought Jesus was being dramatic or just chose not to think about it. But still it was there – a little remnant of hope.  The very words that had brought fear brought a faint glimmer of comfort on that dark Saturday.  Jesus had given them a little something to hold onto in the midst of their disorienting, despairing and hopeless day.  They didn’t have the knowledge of a risen Messiah to apply this conversation to.  It still didn’t make sense.  Maybe to hope took more courage than they had that Saturday.  Afterall, when Mary Magdalene interrupted their weeping and grieving and announced on Resurrection Sunday morning that Hope had risen – Jesus was alive, they didn’t believe her.  Afterall, their Hope had died.  When hope has been crushed, it’s easy to despair, but perhaps they remembered just a little bit. They were stuck in the in-between.  The Friday of despair and the Sunday of Hope.  The problem with Saturday is we don’t know when our Sunday is coming.  How much would it change to know that Sunday IS coming?

Sunday IS coming, because THE Sunday has already come.  God has promised not to leave us stranded in Saturday.

On Saturday, we may not be able to hear Him, we may not be able to see Him and we may not see what He is up to, but He IS up to something. Saturday isn’t the end of the story.   The Psalms are filled with the cries of a heart on Saturday, but always end with an eye on Sunday. Sunday doesn’t bring a lost loved one back.  Even though it can, it doesn’t always mean a baby cradled in aching arms, a body healed, a marriage restored or a return of what was lost, but it does mean hope.  Hope for a heart broken beyond repair, hope for relief from the weariness of grief, hope for a soul that even in the middle of a heartache has found its rest in Him who is Hope personified.  

When the disciples saw Hope on Sunday, the Romans were still in charge.  They were still a little mismatched team of men.  Nothing had changed, but everything had.  Everything and nothing was the same.  On Sunday, they found courage.  Things began falling into place.  They came up from the valley of Saturday and the beauty of Sunday gave them something worth dying for and many of them did.  They were part of a much bigger and grander story than they could have ever imagined.  From the viewpoint on Saturday, all was lost.  From the viewpoint on Sunday, no earthly thing compared.  Hope for a nation had become Hope for all mankind.  Who they thought was a deliverer of Israel, was THE Deliverer for ALL.  He’s the Deliverer for US. Now. Whatever we are facing, He is up to something.

When we feel stranded in a Saturday, we can know that He is actively moving in our lives.  He’s not silent – We may not hear Him, but He is working on our behalf.  We’re part of a Sunday story.  All of us are.  We may not see it yet, but we must hold on and not lose hope.  Even if we have, we can cling to what we know.  

You see, some on that Sunday did the very same thing that they always did.  Sunday had come for them too, but they chose to ignore Hope.  They chose to believe that the disciples had stolen the body.  Perhaps, some carried the sadness to their death that the great man had died.  

Maybe others ignored Friday, Saturday AND Sunday.  They would rather not think about it and spend their time on frivolous, meaningless things.  Afterall, it’s easier to ignore your heart than to deal with it.  For them, hope never came.  He was there, but they didn’t live like it because they couldn’t see. They just couldn’t stop thinking about Friday.  Even Thomas doubted.  

God has a way of showing up, but we can ignore Him.  We must believe that He IS moving, He loves us and He hasn’t left us.  When a Friday comes and then we’re stuck in Saturday – we MUST believe that He is working all things together for a good we just can’t see at the moment.  Romans 8:28 (NIV) And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  ALL things – not some things, a lot of things or most things.  ALL things.  He will work ALL things together for good.  Those things that have you stuck in Saturday?  That’s part of ALL things.  I’ve seen the beauty of Sunday in lives after the tragedy of Friday and the despair of Saturday.  Some of the most beautiful lives I know have endured the worst Fridays and Saturdays.

He’s reminding me of this with one of my situations I am feeling stressed about.  It’s a little Saturday situation – not a huge deal, but a little stressful all the same.  He spoke that this is a part of something HE is doing.  It’s a piece of the puzzle that’s needed because it’s part of a grander story.  It’s uncomfortable, hard, exhausting and a little disorienting, but on Sunday, I will have a clearer view.  I know Hope will come, He always does.

If we find ourself stuck in a Saturday, we don’t have to despair.  We can keep an eye on Sunday with expectation.  Sunday will come.

Lord, Even though I feel stuck in this Saturday, please give me the strength I need to keep my eye on Sunday.  Even though I may not be able to see it now, I know that You are working on my behalf and You have not abandoned me.  I cannot see it now, but I know that You will work this situation for good somehow and in some way because You’re heart and intentions toward me are good.  You have no intention of leaving me in this place, but You will bring me to a solid place and set my feet on a firm foundation.  You are Hope and I can rest in the fact that You will come and You will make Yourself known in my life and in this place.  Even though I cannot see You in this dark place, I know that You will not leave me here, but will bring me to a place with a clearer view.  Even in this Saturday season, I rest in the fact that You are good and You are Hope.  Thank You that I can trust You with my life.   

Psalm 40:2 (NLT) He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.  He set my feet on solid ground and gave me a firm place to stand.