I spent Good Friday night on the couch, holding an ice pack to a mate’s badly swollen leg and listening. It wasn’t that unusual – injuries, homelessness, addictions: these don’t stop for public holidays.
The leg was bruised a deep purple, with the injured friend darting between racing thoughts, convinced he was fine, and explaining how it’s good to be drunk because Jesus turned water into wine.
‘Also’, he tells me, ‘did you known methamphetamine is good for you? People say it hurts you in the long term, but it’s the only thing that makes my brain feel good!’.
‘Ahh’, I think. ‘That explains the wine thing’.
I’m sure we all have moments like this. Maybe not sitting with a person on meth, injured but blind to their pain. But moments when we assess the room around us, and almost give in to the foreboding sense that everything is not ok.
This world feels broken. No one needs convincing of that. Good Friday is already a day of mourning, but it feels more potent when we consider the state of the world we’re in right now. Like so many others, I feel heartbreak at Ukraine, heartbreak over floods, heartbreak over homelessness. Heartbreak over sickness, over friends’ marriages ending, over burnout. As I’m sitting patiently, and my energy fading with the cool of the ice pack, I think to myself ‘it can’t go on like this forever’.
When we talk about sin on Good Friday, I don’t know where your brain goes. I think of my personal iniquity, my failures, the times I miss the mark. But this year I’m thinking larger. I’m thinking about sin in the global sense: that this world isn’t experiencing the fullness of life God had in store. That wars, death, illness, disconnection – none of this was in God’s good design. And that perhaps, in a world so polluted by hurt, we’re only half aware of how broken we truly are.
It’s a fake world that numbs the pain, and when you can’t feel the pain, you won’t get help to fix it.
It’s that last bit that got me. My friend’s leg was badly hurt, but he couldn’t feel the pain. Drugs were an attractive substitute to reality because they calmed his mind while numbing the agony in his body. It’s a fake world that numbs the pain, and when you can’t feel the pain, you won’t get help to fix it. I took photos so we can track the swelling.
We all have our fake worlds, spaces in our lives where we look one way to forget the other. Your vice might not be meth, but obsession over busyness, pride, insecurity, or the love of material things can all be just as dangerous in the long run. We can become so distracted, and keep telling ourselves we’re fine, even while the condition of our hearts deteriorates more each day. In the chaos of the world around us, it’s easy to miss there’s more to life than how we’re living it.
And then there’s Easter.
For me, Easter is the great ‘truth weekend’. Our church’s Good Friday service is reflective – we start in darkness, and read the Scriptures that detail Christ’s final moments at the cross. This year, we centered on the question ‘Who do you say I am’ from the Gospel of Luke.
Who do I say Jesus is? Who does my life reflect him to be?
If I actually believe Jesus is the only one who can truly satisfy, then why am I getting distracted? Is it because I, like my friend, just don’t want to feel the pain of a proverbial injured ankle? Where is the pain in me – or the areas where life isn’t being lived to the full – and what am I using to numb it? These questions pinch a little, but I know they’re good. Life in Jesus can be vibrant, beautiful, and satisfying. It can also be painful as we examine our hearts and do away with the things that ultimately won’t last. Choosing to trust in Jesus can feel like a process, but it’s a decision I want to make, and keep making.
That was Good Friday, and things can feel hopeless. My friend’s ankle won’t be better overnight – and neither will his addiction. The world may not look better for a long while to come. But as my pastor finished on Friday morning, ‘Today is Friday… but Sunday is coming’.
It’s the knowledge that Jesus conquered death which allows me to properly reflect on my life. Examining my heart for signs of brokenness or areas of life lived without Jesus feels safer when I know He already loves me.
Actually, when I really reflect on His love, the brokenness doesn’t seem quite as scary, and the distractions are less attractive. Having a secure identity means doubt doesn’t define me, so it’s easier to bring into the open. Maybe dealing with the pain is a good thing.
After a night’s rest, my mate was back on his ankle, likely with something in his system to help dull the pain. I wince as he steps on it, praying the injury doesn’t get worse. The pain will catch up eventually; you can’t run from it forever.
So I turn and take a moment to reflect, and put my heart on the line before God. If I’m numbing pain, I’d probably prefer to know – even if it means there are things I need help with, or areas for me to work on.
The scriptures says it best:
‘Search me, God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way within me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.