Rachel Conrad Carlson
The Day the Sky Turned Dark
Good Friday has always seemed to me anything but good. The day the Son of God died, the day the sky turned dark, the day the curtain tore in half and hung in threads in the Temple of Jerusalem, the day the very earth shook and the rocks split themselves apart. How could any of this be good? All of nature knew this death of God was unnatural at its core, a seismic event that instantly changed all of history and humanity. A willing death that brought about the eternal hope of the world.
The irony of Good Friday’s name reveals a core truth of Christianity: you can’t rise up from the dead if you haven’t first died. And even God doesn’t pretend like death is something “good” for its own sake. Yet, how can new life come if the old hasn’t disintegrated in the dark earth? And we too know this truth because we echo it in our bones in a thousand small and earth-shattering ways.
I wish God didn’t feel so far away. This thought has pounded in my brain for weeks now, and I have yet to find a solution that brings me back to the precious, close times I’ve known with God in the past. Which, honestly, makes a whole lot of sense on this Good Friday.
Right now, it feels like my entire body and soul and all of our grieving country and all the earth are crying out Jesus’ lament that he shared with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26). Considering the children senselessly murdered in our schools while politicians refuse to come together to protect the lives of our babies with common sense measures; the tornadoes and earthquakes wiping out towns and entire cities, killing thousands upon thousands; the seemingly unceasing wars and threats of war; and so many other countless tragedies that have soaked us in death and despair and overwhelming grief, how can our souls not be “sorrowful even to death” like Jesus’ soul was? In our own human experience, we are collectively living in an endless stream of Good Fridays it seems.
Yet in the same breath that He shares His burdened soul, Jesus–who was still sorrowful even though He knew the resurrection and hope that was soon to follow–then asks his closest friends to “remain here and keep watch with me.” And in my own sorrow and grief, I am struck by the wisdom of this. It’s now, when I feel deafened by the silence of God and overburdened by the darkness of this world, that I need to allow myself to rely on the divine community that God has ordained for us to be for each other, in exactly such a time as this.
Right after Jesus takes his last breath and dies on the cross, Mark chooses to include the following detail in chapter 15 of his gospel account: “There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.”
I’m thinking about those “many other women” now, as they stood grouped around Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene, watching the horrific death of their beloved Jesus. They witnessed and they grieved together. These women had followed Jesus and ministered to Him; they had listened to him and likely laughed with him. They didn’t understand at all what was going to happen. They only knew that their Messiah, the Hope of the world, had just been crucified on a tree. And they didn’t leave. And they weren’t alone.
Today, I pray for you and I pray for myself that we may see our own divine communities clearly. That we have just the right people reach out to us in just the right moments. I pray that in our own dark sorrow that we’re also able to reach out to others we know are sorrowful too, so that we can witness death and darkness together. And as we do, I pray that the kind of good that can only be born out of death will come to each of us. Amen