At the center of a biblical worldview is a radical recognition: the most horrible thing that ever happened was the most beautiful thing that ever happened.
Consider the cross of Jesus Christ. Could it be possible for something to happen more terrible than this? Could any injustice be greater? Any loss more painful? Any suffering worse? The only man who ever lived a life that was perfect in every way possible, who gave his life for the sake of many, and who willingly suffered from birth to death in loyalty to his calling, was cruelly and publicly murdered in the most vicious of ways.
How could the Son of Man die? How could men capture and torture the Messiah? In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter provides an explanation filled with both horror and beauty:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:22–24)
The cross was not the end of the story! In God’s righteous and wise plan, this horrible moment was ordained to be the moment that would fix all the dark and disastrous things that sin had done to the world. This moment of death was, simultaneously, a moment of life. This moment of horror was the moment when the beauty of eternal hope was given. This moment of lawless injustice was at the same time a moment of amazing grace. The extreme physical and emotional pain Christ endured at that moment guaranteed that suffering would one day end, once and for all (Rev. 21:4).
Original Black Friday
Several years ago at this time on the calendar, while I was being bombarded with advertising for Black Friday sales, I was reminded of the original “Black Friday”—when there was darkness over the whole land (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Feeling inspired, I wrote this poetic meditation to help me focus my fickle heart on my Savior—and not believe the lie that the created world can satisfy my longing soul:
There was only one Black Friday.
It was not the day after Thanksgiving.
It was not a day when self-oriented consumers
and hated the other consumers who were
in their way.
No, all the action of the one Black Friday
was on a hill of death
outside the city
where three souls hung on crosses
—two criminals and the Messiah.
Christ doing what he came to do
and what the world was desperate for.
That Friday the world went dark,
the Father turned his back,
graves opened, and
the veil ripped in two.
The Son carried the Father’s anger.
Death was offered so life could be given.
Darkness fell so light would shine.
There was only one Black Friday.
No need to shop anymore for
It’s true: the most horrible thing that ever happened was the most beautiful thing that ever happened. Only God can do such a thing.
Horror and Beauty of Christmas
Black Friday is not the only time when horror and beauty collide. As we prepare for Advent, remember the birth of Christ, where we see these themes again:
Now when [the wise men] had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:
“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” (Matt. 2:13–18)
It’s easy, as we sit beneath a beautifully decorated tree and eat the rich food of celebration, to forget the horror and violence at the beginning of the Christmas story. Jesus’s life begins with a horrible slaughter of children and ends with his violent murder. But out of slaughter and murder comes the beauty of endless life.
The pathway to your celebration was the death of the One you celebrate.
This Christmas, look into that manger and see the One who came to die. Hear the angels’ song and remember that death was the only way peace could be given. Look at your tree and remember another tree—one not decorated with shining ornaments, but stained with the blood of God’s Son. As you celebrate, remember that the pathway to your celebration was the death of the One you celebrate.
Making Sense of Your Life
The same God who planned these moments of horror to become moments of beauty is your Father. He rules over every moment in your life, and in powerful grace he can do for you just what he did in redemptive history. He takes the disasters in your life and makes them tools of redemption. He takes your failures and employs them as tools of grace. He uses the “death” of the fallen world to move you to reach out for life. The hardest things in your life become the sweetest tools of grace in his wise and loving hands.
Be careful how you make sense of your life. What looks like a horrible disaster may in fact be beautiful grace. What the world intends for evil against you, God may ordain for good (Gen. 50:20). What looks like the end may be the beginning. What looks hopeless may be heaven’s instrument to give you real and lasting hope.
Your Father is committed to turning what seems horrible into something beautiful. Trust him.
In a season of sorrow? This FREE eBook will guide you in biblical lament
Lament is how we bring our sorrow to God—but it is a neglected dimension of the Christian life for many Christians today. We need to recover the practice of honest spiritual struggle that gives us permission to vocalize our pain and wrestle with our sorrow.
In Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy, pastor and TGC Council member Mark Vroegop explores how the Bible—through the psalms of lament and the book of Lamentations—gives voice to our pain. He invites readers to grieve, struggle, and tap into the rich reservoir of grace and mercy God offers in the darkest moments of our lives.
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