My mother-in-law asked me on Holy Saturday if I’ve ever been depressed. I thought about it for a second and then replied, “I think I’m wired too optimistically to get depressed.”
It’s true. I’m not saying I don’t get deeply sad or melancholy from time to time or that I haven’t had my share of darker seasons of life. But I’ve never truly experienced a dark day where there was no glimmer of hope. It’s interesting, though, because I think that’s where all of the weight of Holy Saturday comes from. The tomb was completely shut. The disciples had scattered and fled. “It is finished,” were the last words Jesus gave before he died. He didn’t say, “Hope is coming.”
I have a strong sense of empathy. I can put myself in another person’s shoes to see their point of view as easily as water slides down a smooth surface. It doesn’t mean I agree with them, and it doesn’t necessarily mean I sympathize with them. But I can put myself in a place where I see what they’re seeing and feel what they’re feeling to understand why and how they are seeing and feeling those things, even though I may not have been in that exact situation.
Unfortunately, my empathy grows weak when it comes to hopelessness. That kind of perspective is a lot fuzzier for me. So it’s been very hard for me to imagine how the disciples must have felt on that ‘Saturday.’ I can’t imagine Holy Saturday without the spoiler alert of Resurrection Sunday.
This is something I’ve wrestled with since I was young. There were many times in middle school where I very dangerously wished something terrible would happen to me just so that I could empathize more with others’ suffering or just prove to myself that my hope and faith were real; that God’s power to pull me through was real. There are still some days now where I play around with that idea like a 3-year-old reaching for a knife and hesitating before grabbing it with her entire palm.
Instead, my somewhat healthier balance has gotten me mentally teaching myself that I am not an exception to the sufferings of life. I should not be surprised if I get into a terrible accident, develop cancer, or have a miscarriage (no, I’m not expecting right now) – and I should equally not be surprised if any of those things should happen to those I dearly love who are close to me. Almost everyday I remind myself that God did not promise that I would never suffer, but that He would be with me through whatever suffering I encountered. And so I don’t bank on my prayers for safety and protection being answered – though I do pray those from time to time – I bank on God’s presence and hope to carry me through whatever may come my way.
My wildly optimistic wiring may be strong, but I think my semi-morbid anticipation of inevitable suffering any day now counters that wiring a bit.
I’m also fully aware that while I am somewhat bracing myself as much as possible for the full-force impact of deep suffering and darkness, all of my inbred hope may be shattered completely and buckle under the weight of grief, loss, and pain.
It is only when it comes that we’ll see the results of the test.