This week, as we experience Good Friday and await the wonder of Easter morning, I wanted to share with you some thoughts from Wrestling with Wonder about what is happening in the darkness when all hope seems lost.
For those who are facing darkness-when-it-should-be-light in some area of life, I hope this will bring hope and encouragement.
As I always say, in the darkness God does His most intimate work.
Darkness and the Curtain
When Jesus was on the cross, darkness covered the land for three hours, from noon until three in the afternoon. Commentators argue about what the darkness symbolized…But for those who have knelt in their own darkness, the arguments don’t matter. For Mary, for us, we care little what the darkness symbolizes. It only matters that it is there, that we must live through it, live in it. We know that darkness means confusion and fear, sorrow and loneliness. This is a time when we can’t see, we don’t understand. It’s when things are not as they should be, when life is turned upside down and nothing makes sense.
That is the kind of backwards, doesn’t-make-sense, where-are-you-God moment that Mary and everyone around her experienced.
I’ve experienced it too. You probably have as well. We’ve been to the place where we can’t seem to see any light at all. She couldn’t see Jesus. We can’t see God. There were no comforting visions; there were no glimpses of God’s light. She could do nothing but wait. We can do nothing but trust ... or not. We choose.
Because for us, like Mary, we often don’t know what is happening, what God is doing when we can’t see him.
Luke 23:44-45 tells us, “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.”
Something was happening in the darkness.
Far away from where Mary was standing (or sitting or kneeling) something important was happening in the temple. In the darkness, the curtain that separated the people from the Holy of Holies was being torn in two. Luke clearly links the two events in the text.
God is in the darkness. He is working. He is tearing the veil.
And this veil that was ripped asunder was no puny bit of muslin. It was a whole handbreadth thick. It was forty cubits long and twenty wide. It did not tear easily.
Woven from costly yarns from Babylon, the curtain blocked access to the Holy of Holies where the inner altar stood. Only once a year would the high priest enter through the curtain to make an offering for his sins and the sins of the people. That’s how unapproachable, how separate, God was to the people.
But not forever. Because in the darkness, God was doing a new thing.
In general, culturally then and now, the purpose of a veil is to cover, to separate. Brides wear veils as they walk down the aisle so the groom can’t see them. Middle Eastern women wear veils to hide their faces from men.
This veil, this curtain, was to separate a holy God from a sinful people. But while Mary sat in the blackness, unable to see Jesus, unable to see God, God rent that veil in two. He removed the barrier. And he did it in the darkness.
So what does this tell us about our God? It says that no matter how deep our darkness, no matter the horror we face in it, God is there. He is working. He is, in fact, doing his most intimate work. God rends the curtain and reveals himself, takes down barriers, does a new thing, in our darkest moments. The curtains in your soul may be thick. They may be difficult to tear away. But our God knows how to rip through the thickest of veils. He has done it before. He will do it again. For you.
So what do we do when we face the darkness? Like Mary, we sit at the foot of the cross. We don’t panic. We don’t run away. Instead, we stay there, sit quietly, and let God work even though we can’t see him.
Now, because of Christ, because of what he did on the cross for us, darkness is no longer the place where evil has its way. It is not the devil’s realm. Instead, it has become the place where God works, where he comes near to us in new ways.
God is God, even in our darkness.
There he loves us. There he fulfills his purposes. There the promises of the Messiah come true because he is removing the separation between God and man. Between you and the God who loves you.
He is near us in the dark. He is opening the Most Holy Place.
We must only trust, even when we cannot see.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,
for he who promised is faithful.