Finding words for that Easter Saturday feeling
From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. Jonah 2:1
It was all he could do. In the depths of despair, Jonah was striving to find a language for his pain. Maybe his words can provide us with a vocabulary for our despair. For our very own Saturday feeling. That Saturday that comes after Good Friday and before Easter Sunday. That moment that comes after the initial shock and pain of our world falling apart. That moment that feels like it will last forever. New life and hope and promise feel impossible.
That helpless, hopeless place. Sometimes numb, sometimes gut-wrenchingly painful.
In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry. Jonah 2:2
I might as well be dead. To all intents and purposes, I am dead. I wish I was dead right now. There’s nothing else to live for. My life is over.
Help! God help me! For God’s sake, God, do something! Can’t you see I’m dying here?
I know there’s something out there. There has to be. God, I know you’re listening. There’s nothing else, no one else that can help. You’re my only hope.
God, you’ve allowed this to happen to me. There I was, sailing along quite happily, oblivious of what was to come and then suddenly I fell overboard. I was thrown overboard.
The waves are crashing over my head. I’m being pulled this way and that way by the current. I have no control over what’s happening. I’m gasping for air. All I can see is raging waters all around me. I’m going to die here. This is it.
I said, “I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
towards your holy temple.” Jonah 2:4
I feel a million miles from you right now, God. I can remember how good it felt to be in your presence surrounded by your people. Now I’m all alone, cut off from them and cut off from you.
I’ve never felt so alone. It hasn’t always felt this way. Maybe it won’t always feels this way.
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head. Jonah 2:5
But right now, I’m drowning. The waters are closing in over my head. I’m sinking down, deeper and deeper into this pain, deeper and deeper into this despair.
I can’t see straight, I can’t think straight, I’m losing my senses.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in for ever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit. Jonah 2:6
I’m trapped down here. This hole is too deep ever to climb out of, too dark ever to imagine being able to see clearly again. There’s no way out of this.
All I know is this: if anyone can save me, you can.
When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple. Jonah 2:7
I’m losing the will to live. I can’t go on like this. I don’t want to go on like this. I just want to curl up and die. For it all to go away.
And yet something within me is reaching out to you. Something within me will not give up hope.
Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:8-9
God is love. We look in all the wrong place for love and wonder why we can’t find it, wonder why it lets us down.
I have so much to be grateful for. I can look back and be thankful for what I’ve had.
God is love. I will cling to that.
Whatever I have and whatever I am, such as it is, I bring it to you today.
I know that you are my only hope. You can save me.
Please save me.
This prayer isn’t some great analysis of what’s gone wrong and why it’s gone wrong and what Jonah can do to put it right. It’s not really a confession as such.
This is simply Jonah’s cry from the heart. He’s being honest and open about exactly how he’s feeling. He’s not choosing his words carefully. He’s just letting it all out.
And he’s doing so in the context of who God is, who he knows and trusts God to be.
A God of love. A God who saves. A God of power.
This is a great Easter Saturday prayer.