When the outcome is unclear

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Today was uncharacteristically foggy in Southern California. Where I live, there’s often a morning mist that breaks by mid-day. But today was different. The haze remained into dusk, drifting across parking lots and tree tops, clouding the landscape in white. The sunlight never broke and the hot orange-pink sunset never showed up.

I went on a walk this morning by the cliffs, where I typically spend a few minutes looking at the clean blue cut of the ocean’s horizon. But today, standing at a railing at cliff’s edge, I could only see white. If it had been my first time to this spot, I wouldn’t have known there was a vast ocean unfolded in front of me.

It seemed appropriate that today should look and feel unclear and unsure—the future hazy and the truth shrouded in mist. Today would have been Jesus’ second day in the tomb, the day after He died and the day before He was lifted to life.

Today could have been the worst day for the disciples, for Jesus’ mother, and the rest of His family. Today, they woke up only to remember His death the day before. When something terrible happens, there’s a brief moment when you wake up the next day and don’t remember it. And then, you recollect reality. I can imagine that those closest to Jesus might have experienced that on the morning of the second day—the brief sweetness of a new day, and then the terrible, crushing recall of the day before.

Today the words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” may have haunted His followers. Now, the man they knew, loved, and trusted so deeply was dead – at a young age and as the result of the cruelest, most painful, undignified, and unjust death possible.

The outcome was unclear. I wonder if some of the disciples questioned their very belief in God, doubting His goodness in the face of grief and disappointment. Others may have hoped that after raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus Himself could be raised to life. I wonder if others simply went home and went on with their lives, numb.

We know now how the story ends—how His grave was found empty, how Jesus appeared unrecognizable even to His own disciples, how He spoke with them and ate fish and bread with them, how He overcame death and fulfilled His promises.

But just for today, the disciples would not have been sure of that. They were either crushed by grief, or desperately hoping for a miraculous reversal of the previous day’s events.

For many of us, the outcome is also unclear—the horizon of the future is misty; the result of a diagnosis, unknown; the clarity of God’s goodness, shrouded in mystery.

We can be sure of this, however: There is always a third day. God’s promises remain true, even when the grave is full and the outcome is obscured and uncertain.

 

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