To paraphrase the words a wise teacher said to me as I sat in his office, “We often forget that it wasn’t Good Friday and then Easter Sunday. There was Saturday in between. God often does bring some healing, but we may not fully understand the reason for our suffering or find full healing for some things until we get to heaven.”
I had been struggling with intense anxiety that week, overwhelmed by all the unknowns of my future. I felt like I was taking shots in the dark at job applications and even more worried about how I would get through another semester. This teacher, whose class I enrolled in at the last minute, turned out to be a godsend. I have sat in quite a few other offices, getting through various situations, but this lesson is one that I won’t forget.
Have you ever wondered what exactly Jesus' disciples did on that Saturday, he was in the tomb? We know what happened to Christ’s body, and that the temple veil was torn. But what were Jesus’ followers doing? What questions were they asking? Pastor Josh Moody asked this in a sermon last Easter, and I think it’s a good question. I know I could probably read a book on the subject. I also think that it’s okay that we don’t know. But, as often is the case, I thought that C.S. Lewis would have some insight into it.
As a young girl, I watched the movie, “Prince Caspian.” It took multiple viewings for me to understand because, typically, the movie plot line was not done as well as the book. Scenes ran together, and it was hard to understand how they were cohesive, especially to my young mind.
Now when I watch it, I understand. Prince Caspian depicts what it is like to live on the Saturday in-between, making choices amid unknowns, when we haven’t seen God for a while but need him to come through. It’s a depiction of faith while waiting for answers, combating doubt and learning to have eyes to see, kind of like Saturday.
In the movie, “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”, Lucy is a character to watch closely. She sees Aslan and ends up leading her siblings in the right direction, after a dangerous detour. At one point in the movie, her older sister Susan asks “Lucy, why didn’t I see him?” Lucy replies “Maybe you weren’t looking.” It is at the last minute--when the Narnians have defeated half the Telmarine army and the undefeatable half is upon them, when their shelter is collapsing on itself, and Lucy is almost shot by a Telmarine soldier--that Aslan is found.
The scene that follows has enough meaning for the whole story to me. It is probably my favorite scene from the Narnia series. Here is a clip.
The beauty of film is that it can depict a lot more than words on a page. However, it takes some insight and imagination to fully understand what’s going on. Lucy is hesitant because she doesn’t know if this is a wild lion or Aslan. When she realizes who it is, she lights up with a radiant smile, rushes to hug the lion and soak in his lovingkindness with a playful hug. She talks to him like a close friend, asking:
“Why didn’t you show yourself like last time?”
“Things never happen the same way twice, dear one,” he responds.
“If I had come earlier, would everyone that died, could I have stopped them?” she asks another question. And after a brief pause, he answers.
“We can never know what would have happened, Lucy. But will happen is another matter entirely.”
And with that, Aslan roars, and Narnia begins to come back to life. The army is defeated, only with Aslan’s help. The ending is beautiful, and there are lessons to learn from many of the characters’ journeys. (It's worth watching, or better yet, reading [again].)
We all have chinks in our armor: things that cripple us, losses and hardships we experience, and we try to persevere through all of it. Sometimes we are continually hit with trials and don’t know what to do but fight on, waiting for rescue and redemption. Other times, we have so many questions and are not sure we can find answers to our doubt, or ever be assured in confident faith.
We all have Saturday moments, grasping for understanding of truth in the middle of the suffering we see. Saturday is the time in-between the seeking and the finding. Like Lucy, we may have faith but still want answers. We know Aslan is there but are afraid to find him, to go alone. And we want to ask why he wasn’t here earlier? Why did this have to happen this way? Could I have done something differently? Or even, simply, as it was for the children and Narnians and has been for me at times, how do I survive?
In one of his devotional writings on the Cross and suffering, Dr. John Stott says that “the fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge of the Christian faith.” Can suffering possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love? Stott says more, but goes on to quote from his own book, The Cross of Christ: “I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing around his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, row bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in light of his” (From his devotional, Through the Bible through the Year, p.269). Stott clarifies the difference of other religions from Christianity through a suffering Christ, seen through imagination.
What is the lesson of Saturday? I am learning it more now. We don’t know what the disciples were doing. Perhaps they were planning an attack, like Peter. Perhaps they were waiting, like Lucy. Probably a bit of both, between personalities like Peter and Thomas. What we do know, as John Stott and others before me know, is that our God is a suffering God. Scripture tells us this not only in the New but also the Old Testament.
The Chronicles of Narnia help me understand it more. Saturday teaches us that it is only the cross that justifies the suffering of this world. The cross is our only hope for salvation and our one confidence, because only through it can we find strength to face the wounds and battles of this world. Our questions and reasons for suffering may not be fully answered until we reach heaven, but Christ allows us to know the lovingkindness of the Father through a relationship with Jesus, through knowing him and sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings (Philippians 3:10).
I recently heard this quote: “If we seek, we will find, but we do not want to find, so we do not seek.” Saturday fills the space where we struggle with our unbelief, the place where we seek but are afraid to find. It helps us learn to still have eyes to see and to live despite the questions that we just can’t have answers to this side of heaven.
The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.
2 Timothy 2:12-13