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Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: the lifeline of “Good” in “Good Friday”

Lynne Baab • Friday April 10 2020

Spiritual diary of sheltering in place: the lifeline of “Good” in “Good Friday”

You are probably quite familiar with two verses from Lamentations: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Those words come almost exactly in the middle of the book, a high point between descriptions of deep sadness. Lamentations, often attributed to Jeremiah, describes the emptiness and pain of Jerusalem after its people were carried into exile in Babylon in 586 B.C.

For Good Friday I want to highlight several verses that come before and after those well-known verses. I think you will be amazed at the relevance for this holy day. Lamentations 3:1-9 and 19-20 enable us to ponder the sadness that Jesus must have experienced. I want to invite you to enter into the depth of emotion expressed here as a way to feel some of Jesus’ pain as he goes to his death.

I am one who has seen affliction 
  under the rod of God's wrath;
he has driven and brought me
   into darkness without any light;
against me alone he turns his hand,
   again and again, all day long.
He has made my flesh and my skin waste away,
   and broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
   with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me sit in darkness
   like the dead of long ago.
He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
   he has put heavy chains on me;
though I call and cry for help,
   he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with hewn stones,
   he has made my paths crooked. . . .
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
   is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
   and is bowed down within me.”

After all that pain and sadness, the writer of Lamentations, shifts the direction of his thoughts: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.” What he calls to mind is the steadfast love of the Lord, and God’s mercies that are new every morning. 

The passage then goes on to describe waiting and hoping in God. Notice the many aspects of human life that are described as “good.” I invite you to use these verses to ponder why we add “Good” to “Friday” to describe this day.

“‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul,
   ‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The LORD is good to those who wait for him,
   to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
   for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for one to bear the yoke in youth, 
  to sit alone in silence
   when the Lord has imposed it,
to put one's mouth to the dust
   (there may yet be hope),
to give one's cheek to the smiter,
   and be filled with insults.
For the Lord will not reject forever.
Although he causes grief, he will have compassion
   according to the abundance of his steadfast love.” (Lamentations 3:24-32).

We are so blessed to have the rich language of the prophets to help us get ahold of deep truths. Passages like this one can be a lifeline for us in these strange days. Jesus experienced the pain we are experiencing. We can wait and trust in God, and we can embrace the goodness that God extends to us, God’s compassion and steadfast love show to us on Good Friday.

Lord Jesus, thank you for this beautiful and painful day, when we remember the glory and sadness of your death on the cross for our sins. Thank you for dying for us. Thank you for the abundance of your steadfast love and your mercies that are new every morning. Help us to honor you with our lives, as you have honored us with your life.

(Next post: more lifelines for sheltering in place. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love getting new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.)

I am still trying to get the news out about the release of my book on midlife for kindle. A friend who is reading the book right now says that it is highly relevant for this unsettled time with covid-19. In the same way that midlife puts us off balance, the virus is doing that, and we need new paths for our spiritual lives. For several months, I have been working on getting A Renewed Spirituality: Finding Fresh Paths at Midlife ready for kindle. Maybe this timing of publication is quite good, because the six spiritual paths I describe in the book as being appropriate for midlife are equally appropriate for the stressful days we are living in now. Take a look here.

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