It’s Holy Week. The week where we see the convergence of death and life.
My heart tightens. The tension between the two is palpable. The significance of this week weighs heavy on my soul.
Instead of feeling light in the hope and rejoicing of this season, I can’t help but slowly take in each moment of Holy Week.
And I can’t help but also feel the weight of a bereaved mother’s words that have echoed in my mind for days now.
It was around Palm Sunday. Someone shared an image with a Bible verse on Facebook proclaiming and rejoicing that God brings beauty from the ashes.
This mother’s words stood apart in the comments.
“There is nothing beautiful about the death of my 5 year old.”
Her wounded words pierced the scars on my heart, those of my healed wounds that mark my own broken places of child loss.
I have been her, uttering similar words. Aching to believe scripture yet scoffing in disbelief. Because how can the death of your baby be beautiful?
Maybe you’ve been there before too? Maybe it wasn’t the death of your child. Maybe it was another tragedy or something else that was painful or ugly that happened to you.
Maybe it left you doubting God, struggling to believe His Word applies to you, struggling to see Him in the midst of your pain, maybe feeling abandoned by Him.
Friend, if you’ve been there, or this is you now, will you take a moment to journey through Holy Week with me?
When we look at the events of Holy Week, looking at where God was and what He was doing in each of the moments gives us insight into our own lives and help us find God in whatever season we find ourselves in.
“Just look at Palm Sunday – to Good Friday – to Resurrection Sunday. ALWAYS BELIEVE, ALWAYS KEEP HOPING – things can change.” Ann Voskamp
And I would add, “and God is always there with you, always at work in your life.”
For the past couple of weeks I have read, analyzed, and reflected on the days between Palm Sunday and Pentecost. I have soaked in God’s Words. They have come alive in me.
I read them and can see how I fit into Holy Week, not just understanding what Jesus did on the cross for me, but seeing how my faith journey mirrors the events of Holy Week.
Have you ever paused to consider how the events in Holy Week mirror your life’s experiences or the seasons in your life?
First let me begin with quick overview of Holy Week (but I encourage you to read the full accounts found in Matthew 26-28, Luke 22-24, and John 11-21).
Palm Sunday. God’s people rejoice as their King enters the Holy City.
The week continues on. The people’s expectations and understanding of Jesus as their King begin to fail them.
Maundy Thursday. Jesus breaks the bread, a symbol of the breaking of His body that is about to occur. He gives thanks and then gives the bread to his disciples, foreshadowing the giving of His life for them. Jesus “mandates” communion, the breaking of bread in remembrance of Him, and He gives the command to love God and love one another. His followers experience fellowship with Him but are growing confused and uneasy.
Good Friday. The confusion and chaos escalates into utter devastation and sorrow as their King is mocked, tortured, and crucified on a cross. There is tremendous suffering and grief.
Holy Saturday. Their King appears to be gone. Their Savior doesn’t appear to be a savior; He seems to be defeated. There is more confusion and mourning. More doubts and fears.
Resurrection Sunday. Most of His people have scattered, but a few come to seek their King at His tomb. Even in death, their love draws them near to Him. His tomb is empty, and His words come back to them. They remember. Jesus goes to His followers. He calls Mary by her name. At first they are unsure, but then they see Him. Their King is alive. He has conquered the grave. Death is defeated. Hopelessness turns to hope. The darkness turns to light. The broken becomes whole.
The Ascension. The people experience their Resurrected King intimately again. He speaks directly to their hearts. He calls them to make disciples. And then He leaves them, ascending into Heaven. They praise and worship Him.
Pentecost. God pours out His Spirit into His followers. His people are filled with the Holy Spirit. God lives in them. The power that resurrected their Savior lives in them, resurrecting their lives, empowering them to do His works, enabling them to be His hands and feet, to move and serve and love and boldly proclaim the Good News.
As you read through the events, could you find any similarities to your story?
Here’s what I see…
Palm Sunday. The entrance of the King into my life. I’m ready for Him to save me and be my King.
Holy Week to Maundy Thursday. I’m engaged in a relationship with Jesus, but am sometimes confused by His Words.
Good Friday. My world is turned upside down by the unexpected, by suffering, brokenness, and grief (marked by the deaths of my little girl, my father shortly after, and numerous other trials and losses).
Holy Saturday. The suffering has occurred. It feels like God has abandoned me. I feel alone and full of sorrow. Maybe at times I was like the ones who scattered, running away from God. Maybe at times, I was like the ones trying to make sense of what didn’t make sense, wanting to believe, but struggling.
Resurrection Sunday. I encounter Jesus. He calls my name. I see His hand in my life. He uplifts my face to His. I experience rescue from hopelessness and despair. The return of hope and life. The broken made whole. The beauty from the ashes. Intimacy with the King. His life resurrecting mine.
The Ascension / Pentecost. I worship and praise His name for His marvelous works. For how He rescued, redeemed, and restored my life. His Spirit is alive in me. I experience His Holy power empowering me and ushering me forward in faith to boldly speak His name and fulfill His commands.
Can you see the similarities between Holy Week and the seasons of your life?
I could probably mark which months and years of my life fit into each of those Holy Week events. Maybe you can too.
We see the order of events, the cycles, the seasons:
Faith. Relationship. Confusion. Unexpected events. Suffering. Tragedy. Loss. Grief. Hopelessness. Feeling abandoned and alone. Holding on. Waiting. An encounter. Rescue. Resurrection. Healing. Beauty. Rejoicing.
And then a repeat.
And maybe it repeats over and over in our lives. Sometimes daily, sometimes in short cycles, sometimes taking up years and years of space.
If there is one thing to take away from understanding Holy Week in your own life, it’s not just knowing that God is there with you working in each season or stage (which is an incredibly comforting and uplifting truth) it’s seeing that the suffering doesn’t last, that hope is coming, that the ashes of your life can be turned into something beautiful, and hope is here and now, even in your suffering.
I’ve been in the Good Friday season. The season marked by excruciating pain and suffering. Marked by death and grief. Marked by ashes.
I’m guessing the woman in the comments might be there now too.
The death of her child is not beautiful. The death of my child is not beautiful. Jesus’s mangled body on the cross was not beautiful.
Rape is not beautiful.
Abuse is not beautiful.
Torture is not beautiful.
Evil is not beautiful.
But my heart aches because this woman hasn’t seen it yet. And maybe you can’t see it yet in your circumstances either.
But I’ve seen it, and I pray you do / will too.
God can make the most broken places in our lives beautiful.
Jesus’s body on the cross wasn’t a beautiful sight. But some might call it beautiful, because they know the whole story. They know what it means for them. They know it’s His life willingly and sacrificially poured out to save us because of how deeply He loves us. That makes His suffering on the cross a simultaneously agonizing and profoundly beautiful thing.
But how do I believe God’s Word that claims these truths in light of my daughter who wasn’t rescued from her illness, who wasn’t healed, who did die?
How can we understand His Word when tragedy comes or when evil is done to us?
We must expand our perspective. We must ask God for His understanding and to see our lives through His eyes. And we have to surrender to the idea that some things are beyond our scope of understanding because His ways are mysterious and higher (Isaiah 55:8). But if we pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, He will give us wisdom and reveal hidden things to us (Job 12:22, Daniel 2:22, James 1:5)
This is how I answer those questions, how I believe those things. I ask and I surrender, but I also understand that some things will be healed and made beautiful here on Earth, and other things will find their healing and beauty once they’ve passed through Heaven’s gates.
God promises beauty from ashes right? So did God bring beauty from ashes in regards to my daughter’s death?
Yes and yes.
God Word promises healing right? Did God heal my daughter?
Yes and no/yes.
God does say He heals (Psalm 30:2, Isaiah 30:4-5, Psalm 103:2-4). But like I mentioned above, the healing doesn’t always come this side of Heaven, and that is the case of my daughter. No, God did not heal her here, not for my eyes to see, yet, but yes I believe He has healed my daughter. Perfectly and wholly. Her healing came in heaven. And that is no empty cliche held onto for comfort. It’s powerful truth worthy of rejoicing.
But her death may not always look beautiful or feel okay to me here. And that’s okay.
It caused me great pain, and I believe it caused God pain as well. I may have seen my child defeated by illness and die here on Earth, but because of Jesus defeating death (because of the work of God during Holy Week) I know she is alive with Him. From her death, He has given her eternal life.
And, in being healed from my own pain and no longer blinded by it, I can see how beautiful this is.
Her ashes turned into beauty through the ultimate healing found in her glorious heavenly body.
And what about me?
My life that turned into ashes when I lost her. The ashes of a mother whose child has been taken from her. The trauma. The tragedy. The pain. The brokenness. The tears. The suffering. What about those things?
Yes God made something beautiful from all of those ashes too.
I have found and seen the beauty of an intimacy with Him that I had never known before. The beauty of His comfort in the midst of my deepest pain. His shelter, strength, peace. His rescuing me out of my pit of despair and depression and hopelessness and bitterness. His bringing light to my world that had fallen black. He breathed new life into me. He has made my life beautiful through His works.
And I could go on and on, sharing story after story of how I’ve seen His love in others as as result of my Great Sadness. I’ve seen stories collide and result in hope. I’ve seen lives, others and my own, transformed through my loss. I’ve seen healing. I’ve seen joy. I’ve experienced fullness and abundance like never before, when once I was emptied of everything.
Beauty from ashes. Here and now. Yes.
Let me ask you, how do you see your life in light of Holy Week? Where do you find yourself right now?
Are you experiencing a Palm Sunday – where Jesus has entered your life and you’ve made Him your King?
Are you experiencing a Maundy Thursday – where you’re enjoying relationship with Jesus, but maybe He is telling you things about Him or your life that don’t quite make sense?
Are you experiencing a Good Friday – where you’re breaking and suffering?
Are you experiencing a Holy Saturday – where you’re lost in confusion and grief, and God seems to have left you, yet you’re waiting and holding onto a thread of hope for His rescue to be true for you?
Are you experiencing a Resurrection Sunday – where you’re experiencing God bringing life to places you thought were hopeless or dead – where you’re seeing your life rise again? Or you’re finding your brokenness being made whole – or you’re experiencing His return and rescue in your life?
Are you experiencing an Ascension and a Pentecost – where God’s power is living in you enabling you to walk in victorious healing and hope from your broken places and equipping you to boldly proclaim the God’s good works in your life?
Friend, I hope you can see where you are, but more importantly, I hope you can see, no matter where you are, that God is with you, God is working, and Hope can be found.
If you need to draw near to God this week (which we all do), but if you feel yourself wrestling and struggling through Holy Week, can I encourage you to spend time in Isaiah? (Chapters 40-the end, but especially 60 & 61).
Lastly, I know this is already lengthy, but consider your struggle and brokenness. Can we think a little longer on how God works through breaking?
Jesus broke His body to give His life to us.
A woman’s body breaks in labor to give life to her child.
The eggshell must break for the chick to live.
Ann Voskamp elaborates on this idea in The Broken Way:
“The seed breaks to give us wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the feast. There was once even an alabaster jar that broke to give Him all the glory.”
God is working in every stage of our lives. Even in the breaking, in the most painful parts of our lives, and if we go through it with Him, we will see the pattern and relationship in breaking and giving and abundance. And if any of this speaks to you, I highly suggest you go pick up The Broken Way and read if you haven’t. It is the perfect read for Easter.
“In shattered places, with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ, and find our whole selves through the mystery of death and resurrection, through the mystery of brokenness and abundance.” (Ann Voskamp)
Friends, expect God’s hand in your life, every step of the way, in every season, every encounter, in the moments His presence is so real you feel like you could reach out and touch Him to the moments you wonder if He’s even there. Seek Him. Expect Him to be there with you. Expect His promises to be true in your life, in the in between, in the waiting, in the Good Friday and the Holy Saturday, and every day in between. You will find hope and life when you find Him.
“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” Luke 1:45
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61: 1-3