The storm is gone, but the “after the storm” is always here.

The storm is gone, but the “after the storm” is always here.
– Deacon Julius Lee, New Orleans

When I was a kid, all of the hype leading up to Easter overshadowed Good Friday and completely drowned out Holy Saturday. In fact, I’d never even heard about Holy Saturday, a day nestled in-between Good Friday and Easter Sunday that commemorates when Christ’s body was laid in the tomb.

I learned about Holy Saturday during my senior year of college when I was interning for an organization that works with survivors of human trafficking. As I was serving alongside a crisis interventionist, I encountered women who had been raped, shot, beaten, bloodied, and abused in some of the most horrific and dehumanizing ways possible. Every single survivor carried a long history of trauma, enduring darkness and injustices beyond comprehension.

Over the course of my time with that organization, I began to tune into the ways Christians spoke about suffering and trauma in a way that I never had before. I had a hard time stomaching the language that I heard in churches about suffering. The injustices that these women had suffered through were cheapened when church-goers offered empty words of sunshine-y hope.

During this time, I was drawn to Shelly Rambo’s book Spirit and Trauma, which draws on the experiences of those who have undergone trauma and invites readers to rethink a central claim of the Christian faith: that new life arises from death. She discusses how Christians often think about suffering linearly, where we move from point A, to point B, to point C. First, there is “suffering,” then comes “death,” and lastly, one moves into “resurrection.”

Yet, the experiences of those who have undergone deep trauma disrupt this linear narrative. While life might return to some semblance of normalcy as the pain subsides, the reality for those who have undergone deep trauma is that life will never be the same. The scars remain, and the “after storm” never fully goes away. Many survivors struggle to reconcile their present experience of life (reconstructed and shaped through their trauma) with the christian notion that all suffering eventually leads to resurrection and new life.

We Christians are really good at proclaiming “good news” before it is time. We become uneasy and impatient if someone remains in suffering and darkness, not moving forward quickly enough into resurrection and new life. When speaking with those who are undergoing suffering, language of resurrection and restoration can keep us from acknowledging the depth of their suffering.

Rather than rushing, minimizing, or dismissing the suffering of others, might we acknowledge the depth of the present darkness and suffering overwhelming many in our world. Might we enter into this suffering with radical compassion, remembering the sacred, final words of Christ on the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Leading up to Easter Sunday, let us not rush past Good Friday or Holy Saturday. Let us remember those who do not have the luxury or option of moving past their suffering into resurrection, and might we know how to grieve alongside them.

image-2Sarah Stell is a 2015-16 Belle Harris Bennett Fellow. She graduated from Belmont University in Nashville in May 2015 with a major in Social Work. During her college career she studied abroad in the Middle East, served as an orphanage caretaker in Uganda, worked with women involved in the commercial sex industry, and was a social work intern at End Slavery Tennessee. She feels a calling to create space for the voices of the oppressed, engaging churches on issues regarding race, sexuality, power, and oppression.