Today is Holy Saturday—the day between Christ’s death and resurrection—the day darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost.
I visited Taylor University last week. The chapel service was one of the most enthusiastic worship gatherings I have ever experienced. Multiple times I thought, “Is an Asburian revival about to break out?”
Several factors might’ve contributed to the energy in the room that day. It was Friday. It was sunny. Spring is here. College students are lively. And honestly, I wonder if God is answering prayers and bringing genuine revival among college campuses.
But beyond that, on that Friday—just two weeks before Easter—there was a true sense of resurrection victory in the air. Christ’s power over darkness was the theme of the service, and the joy of Jesus’ resurrected life was palpable.
This joy was perhaps most noticeable as we sang Death Was Arrested, a song that… well… I had somehow never heard before that morning.
You say, Um… what? Are you even a Christian?
I know, I know, I live under a rock when it comes to modern worship music. Shortly after the service, I asked one of my friends, “Have you ever heard that song before?”
She said, “I’ve known that song for like six years, Blake…”
Anyway, in case you, like me, have *miraculously* never heard Death Was Arrested, let me explain what makes this song so moving.
As the title suggests, Death Was Arrested heralds Jesus’ victory over sin, darkness, and death. Through the grace and endless love of Christ, ashes become beauty; orphans become children; tears become dancing; prisoners become free. Christ defeated death with death and rose triumphantly to give us new life. The song glitters with little gospel gems.
But something happens in the middle of the song that—for first-time hearers like me—is quite striking.
Midway through the song, we sing,
Our Savior displayed on a criminal’s cross
Darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost
Then, unexpectedly, the music fades. Several (long) seconds of silence ensue. (In the live North Point Worship version, the lights cut out, and darkness floods in.) For a few moments, the room fills with the ominous aura of Holy Saturday. The day of silence. The day of waiting. The day darkness rejoiced as though Heaven had lost.
Twenty-four long hours for Christians to wonder, Is it true? Has Heaven lost? Has darkness won?
When darkness feels like your closest friend
Our lives are full of moments and seasons of this tension, this silence, this waiting. I experienced one such moment several months ago.
It was a month of praying, fasting, struggling, and waiting. One morning, I spent several hours in my bedroom, seeking the Lord, wrestling to discern his will for my life. I felt like God was not answering me. No—let me rephrase that. I felt like God didn’t even hear me. It wasn’t like he was giving me an answer I didn’t want to hear; it felt like he wasn’t answering at all.
By God’s grace, this was a very unusual experience for me. Normally, God attends my prayer times with a strong sense of his presence, blessing, and even direction. But this day felt different. It felt like darkness. I even asked him, “Are you not going to meet me today?”
He didn’t answer.
At least, I didn’t initially feel like he had answered.
So, I did what any good seminary student would do—I prayed Psalm 88. It was the first time in my life that I pulled the Psalm 88 card on God in prayer. I wasn’t messing around.
Psalm 88 is known to be one of the only Psalms that does not end with a word of hope. In fact, the prayer ends with “Darkness is my closest friend.”
That’s what I felt that day.
It wasn’t complete hopelessness—God has proved himself faithful far too many times for that—but my experience was, “At this moment, it feels like darkness has won. It feels like God is absent. It feels like God doesn’t hear me. Where is God in all of this?”
But as the day went on, it dawned on me that the very existence of Psalm 88 was a profound evidence of God’s presence, love, and care.
When God’s people suffer, he doesn’t say, “Stop hurting! How dare you feel like darkness is your closest friend!” No, no—quite the opposite. God is actually the one who gave us these words to pray in the first place!
God doesn’t only give us permission to express our true feelings; he literally gives us step-by-step instructions. He knew we would, at times, feel drowned by darkness in this life, so he gave us a way to process our feelings with him—a way for our souls to breathe.
Ed Welch describes the Psalter as a self-diagnosis manual through which God asks us, “Do you feel like I have left you? Do you feel like I have forgotten you? Do you feel like I have rejected you? Do you feel like I don’t care? Do you feel like I don’t hear? Do you feel like I sleep while you suffer? Do you feel like you are drowning in my waves? Do you feel like darkness is your closest companion?” God graciously gives us words to pray when we have none. He even gives us words to express our frustrations with him!
Like any good counselor, God isn’t threatened or offended by our feelings. He knows his own perfection and doesn’t need to defend or justify himself. Rather than interrogate us for our feelings, God illumines us about our feelings. In love, he helps us understand ourselves.
The Hope of Holy Saturday
Consider the kindness of God to write Holy Saturday into Holy Week. He could’ve just as easily raised Jesus from the dead on Saturday instead of Sunday. Why wait a day?
By writing Holy Saturday into Holy Week, God communicates to every suffering saint who feels like darkness is winning: I see you. I know your suffering. I know the darkness that clouds your vision and threatens to smother your hope. But, dear child, remember that resurrection is coming! I didn’t leave Christ in the grave, and I won’t leave you in the grave, either. Darkness didn’t prevail over Christ, and it won’t prevail over you.
Believer, let this Holy Saturday remind you that our Savior willingly entered into darkness to save us. He knows what it feels like to wait. He knows what it feels like to suffer. He’s not unfamiliar with the blackness; he plunged its deepest depths—its very heart—to rescue us. And because Jesus entered into that dark abyss, we can rest knowing that the darkness we experience in this life is the darkest it will ever get. Eternal light is coming. Resurrection is coming. Jesus is coming.
“I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart be courageous. Wait for the Lord!” —Psalm 27:13–14
Blake Glosson is a pastoral resident at Chapelstreet Church in Geneva, Illinois, and an MDiv student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (here, here, and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.
Read “In Suffering, God Isn’t (Simply) Teaching You a Lesson” here.
Read “That Decompressing Exhale For Which Our Souls Long” here.
Read “Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety” here.