The Balance of Good Friday
Reflections on the Church Practice of Good Friday, and its implications for our lives of faith.
Good Friday, a difficult and uncomfortable day in the church calendar under the best circumstances, seems especially daunting in the midst of the chaos of the present moment. It is easy to feel a kind of emotional whiplash; injustice, pain, and loss are all around us, demanding our attention and our action. At the same time, we know the importance of hope, gratitude, and joy in our lives of faith. Which space ought we sit in? Is this a time for lament and righteous anger, or a time to celebrate the new dawn we trust God to bring?
Good Friday reflects this balancing act. As a day set aside by many in the faith to commemorate the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, Good Friday is a pivotal part of our Lenten reflections as we anticipate Easter. Traditionally, this has been understood as more than just a day to remember the events of Christ’s crucifixion. Rather, in observing Good Friday we are symbolically participating in those events. In this way, Good Friday is a reminder of the brokenness we still face in this world. As we walk through the Stations of the Cross or meditate on the Last Words of Christ, we reflect not only on the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but also how desperately we still need that sacrifice.
It can be tempting to skip over the cross and jump straight to rejoicing at the empty tomb on Easter. As human beings, we are quick to gloss over trauma, grief, and suffering; it can feel exhausting to enter into the darkness and solemnity of Good Friday. But to rush past this day is to neglect the full impetus of Good Friday’s meaning, and what it means to experience the fullness of life. Pain and suffering are realities of the human experience—and Good Friday is an invitation not to run away from our pain, but to discover what it looks like to confront it, collectively and communally, within our communities and with God. This is best modeled in the person of Jesus, who literally enters into our brokenness by coming down as a human and dying for us; he empathizes with our pain and with our exhaustion.
At the same time, we do not stay in the gloom of Good Friday forever. Ultimately, this day is informed by the understanding that resurrection is coming. Our grief is justified, but it need not have the final say over our lives. As we lean into our relationships—with one another and with God—we are reminded that we are not alone. Community and connection are powerful reminders of creation and human experience as God intends. In the midst of our fatigue, our weariness, we can hold onto the promise that, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on Good Friday, there is restoration and renewal ahead.
Good Friday demonstrates that our posture towards life ought not to be either lament or hope; there is room for both in our relationship with Jesus. As Ecclesiastes 3 tells us, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.”
As we enter into Good Friday, let us come before the Lord as we are. Let us bring our hopes as well as our fears to the foot of the cross—our joys as well as our sorrows. Amen.
Written by: Emma Tweitmann
Photography: Annie Spratt, Jayakody Athanas