Have you ever heard the expression “bad things come in threes”? Once when I’d had one of those down times that came on the heels of three (or more) bad things happening, a friend tried to help. The pep talk could have been condensed to: there’s a silver lining in every dark cloud, the sun will shine again, and the rainbow will once again be seen in the sky. Although my friend meant well, hearing someone spout platitudes when you are hurting doesn’t help.
However, there is one semi-platitude that has helped me in times of suffering or confusion. It’s what an old preacher called his favorite Bible verse: “It came to pass.” He chose to interpret that phrase as a reminder that suffering came to pass; it didn’t come to stay. Remembering that can help us to wait with patience.
Phillip Yancey in his book Disappointment with God (Zondervan 1988) said that in studying the Bible he had noticed a radical shift in attitude between Old Testament and New Testament authors toward suffering. He believes that shift can be traced directly back to the Cross. When New Testament writers spoke about hard times, they didn’t express the indignation that Job and many of the prophets and psalmists had. Neither did New Testament writers try to explain suffering; they just kept pointing to two events—the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Yancey wrote: “The apostles’ faith, as they freely confessed, rested entirely on what happened on Easter Sunday, when God transformed the greatest tragedy in all history, the execution of his Son, into a day we now celebrate as Good Friday. Those disciples, who gazed at the cross from the shadow, soon learned what they had failed to learn in three years with their leader: When God seems absent, he may be closest of all. When God seems dead, he may be coming back to life.
“The three-day pattern—tragedy, darkness, triumph—became for New Testament writers a template that can be applied to all our times of testing. . . . Good Friday demonstrates that God has not abandoned us to our pain. The evils and sufferings that afflict our lives are so real and so significant to God that he willed to share them and endure them himself. He too is ‘acquainted with grief.’ On that day, Jesus himself experienced the silence of God—it was Psalm 22, not Psalm 23, that he quoted from the cross. And Easter Sunday shows that, in the end, suffering will not triumph.”
Yancey closed his chapter with a non-platitude that is as true for us as it was for Jesus’ disciples: “Just wait: God’s miracle of transforming a dark, silent Friday into Easter Sunday will someday be enlarged to cosmic scale.”
Until then, we wait.
Vicki Huffman waits and writes from her home near Nashville. She is the author of three Christian books (one novel, two non-fiction) available in print and e-book on amazon.com. A Secret Hope, Plus Living: Looking for Joy in All the Right Places, and The Best of Times.
3/30/13: Judges 19-21. 3/31/13: Ruth 1-4.
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