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Thoughts on Disillusionment
a meditation for Holy Saturday
Disillusionment can be a gift. For many of us, the dimming of our bright hopes is a necessary detour en route to spiritual maturity.
Sometimes we put too much faith or hope in people and movements. Sometimes we pin our hopes on a particular vision of how things will work out. And when our hopes are dashed, we contemplate throwing the whole thing away.
Sometimes we do throw the whole thing away.
I experienced some profound and shattering disillusionments in my young adulthood, and I know that I’m not alone. My life was colored by this disillusionment for many years. (Perhaps it still is).
Peter, for instance, was no stranger to disillusionment. When Christ tried to foretell his death, Peter rebuked him: “No, we won’t let this happen to you!”
Jesus in turn rebuked him. Peter just didn’t want to accept the fact that God’s plan included Jesus’s suffering and death.
I find myself wondering what Peter’s illusions were. Did he think Christ’s influence would grow and that there would be a peaceable transfer of power? Did he imagine a military revolution? Some kind of utopian age?
I think that, even at Christ’s death, the disciples did not fully understand God’s plan for the redemption of humanity.
The disciples had experienced miracles. They had performed miracles themselves. They had heard the audible voice of God. They had been deeply affected by teaching straight from heaven. They had been given the assurance that their sins were forgiven and that their names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
And then Jesus was taken away and killed. His body was taken down from the cross, lifeless.
A lifeless body is the strangest thing: Its heart no longer beats. Its chest no longer rises and falls with breath. The material of the body becomes strictly material–something like clay or earth.
Imagine the disillusionment of Christ’s first followers–those who had loved him and followed him, who had been carried away with bright hopes in Him, high on a movement–when they saw his lifeless, breathless body wrapped in grave clothes.
We, too, mourn the loss of our bright hopes. We mourn the illusions we have entertained. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we are foolish and slow of heart to read the scriptures and understand. We have cotton in our spiritual ears. We see through a glass darkly.
This is the part that we miss:
Christ had to suffer, and we, too, have to suffer sometimes.
Our sufferings are various, diverse. They are not distributed equitably, from a human perspective. But we all have to suffer. And we all have to take up our own crosses.
But when we suffer, it is important that we realize that we do not suffer alone. When we suffer, Christ–the man of sorrows–suffers with us. He is our sympathetic high priest, able to comfort us in all our afflictions.
In some small way, when we suffer, we understand Him and know Him more.
On Holy Saturday, we wait with Him; we feel the crushing weight of sorrow, of hopes deferred.
But we on the other side of the resurrection know that we do not have to wait in despair. We know that we are waiting with Him for resurrection life.
While we sometimes lose faith in various things, ideas, institutions, and movements, our faith in Christ and our fellowship with Him can remain and become ever more precious.
He is with us in all our sufferings through the Holy Spirit, and our sufferings are finite; our resurrection and life in Him are eternal.
His plan isn’t less glorious than the one we have imagined; it is infinitely more glorious.