What Easter Means When You Are Suffering

This Easter, I've been thinking a lot about what Easter means when tragedy strikes in our lives, or the lives of those we know and love. This God we serve, this Jesus, is meant to completely permeate every inch of our life. Easter is not just about the facts that Jesus died and rose again. If the facts stay facts, and have no bearing on our every day life, we are missing the incredible benefits of being a Christian. So this Spring, as I think of those in my path who have experienced loss and experienced the deep pains of this world, I asked God to show me what this weekend, what Good Friday, what Easter Sunday means, when we are walking in dire pain.

It's been a heavy month- the pain of family friends who lost a son are feeling, a highschool classmate who's preschool age son was diagnosed with cancer, the time of year another family lost their adult daughter. I have not walked the shoes of losing a child, nor have I walked the path of a child with a severe illness, and I do not in any way, want to come across as knowing what that is like. I’ve walked paths of tragedy in a different realm and have walked alongside close friends as they have done the same. So please hear my heart in that I just want to share what God has been teaching me about what Easter means for the suffering Christian.

I imagine you have heard many of the Christian cliché’s that get thrown around when someone experiences tragedy in their life. Yes, we know those clichés have truth to them, but from experience, it often seems like they are more painful than helpful, at least at the time. So dear friends, dear one, who is walking through the pain of this broken world, I pray that you know deep in your soul, deep in your heart, that this is not how God created life to be. I’ve sat with friends before, experiencing incredible loss, and comfort is found in that truth. I myself, have walked through darkness and found that this comfort was the only thing at times that kept me moving along... that this is NOT how God created this world to be. Sometimes in the sleepless, dark filled night, that truth is the only thing that calms the anxiety. We were never created to experience pain like this. We were never created to experience death. You were not created to experience the life-altering devastation of losing a child or a loved one, or having a child with a cancer, or accidents that are too close to utterly devastating, or experiencing the earth shattering affects of broken relationships. This is not what you were made for. There is comfort in that because if we know life was not supposed to be this way, we know from God’s Word, that it won’t remain this way… and that’s where that small beacon of hope still remains lit in your hearts, even on the darkest of days…

It reminds me of Good Friday…that space between the cross and the empty tomb… that dark, empty space after hope left, but before grace came, before Jesus' resurrection took place. I imagine Jesus’ friends, confused, dark, lonely, afraid, shaken to the core… “Is Jesus who He says He is? But He said he would be King and now He’s dead?” The confusion. The despair. The questions. The fears. The loss of hope. That space between the cross and the empty tomb is where I imagine it feels like you still are.
But I want to tell you dear friends…that the dark, empty, hopeless space between the cross and the empty tomb is no longer there! That’s the significance of Easter. That’s what Easter has to do with the tragedies we experience today. That’s what Easter has to do with the loss of loved ones, with terrible illness, with broken relationships. That’s what Easter has to do with our life when the brokenness of this world knocks down our front door and changes everything we ever knew.

You see, without Easter Sunday, we are stuck in the despairing pit between the cross and the empty tomb…that dark space where our tragedy and pain causes us to be uncertain, the pain that makes us question if God is who He says He is, that space where we question everything we ever learned about Jesus. That’s the dark empty space of Good Friday. But friends, Sunday is coming! It’s because of this Sunday, that your pain right now, has hope of relief, has hope of redemption. You see, because You are dearly loved by Jesus, because you are His own, You have the joy of what comes on Sunday. Without this Easter Sunday you would remain camped in that hopeless space, just trying to find a way to make it through the rest of your life. But that’s not you, that’s not us, because we have a RISEN Savior. You see, Easter is not just about Jesus dying on the cross. Because if He just died on the cross, we would still be stuck in that dark, hopeless pit, with fear and uncertainty. Jesus’ death is only significant if He rose again, which He did!! If Friday happened, but Sunday never came, there would be no hope. No immediate relief. No future full relief. But Sunday DID happen, and that’s where everything changes. Sunday, is where everything changes!!!!
I am reminded of a hymn from childhood... I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today. I know that He is with me, whatever men may say. I see His hand of mercy, I hear his voice of cheer, and just the time I need Him, He’s always near. He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way. He lives! He lives! Salvation to impart. You ask me how I know He lives. He lives, within my heart.

And that, dear ones, is why there is hope… 
But...no, it does not mean there won’t be pain.
In my experiences with some groups of Christianity, it has angered me to hear the ways some speak of pain. People falsely claim that because they believe in God, because they have hope, that they will be shielded from harm, and if it finds them it will not hurt too badly. Equally insidious is the false claim that if pain finds you it is evidence of a failure in your beliefs. That is a lie that I think we may sometimes tell ourselves so that we can feel like we are in control. That an unexpected tragedy could be avoided with effort. That is the one I’ve struggled with the most as I’ve walked some painful and despairing roads. But I do not believe at all, that this is the message we were intended to hear. It is NOT the message of Jesus, and it is NOT the message of Easter Sunday- the pinnacle of our Christian faith.

Life is full of beautiful people, believing in God, yet experiencing dire pain. No, our lives will not be absent of pain, but the way we process that pain is what will be different, because we know there is an Easter Sunday. Friends, we don’t remain in the hopeless pit of that empty space between the cross and the tomb. We process pain differently because grace came… because Sunday came. Jesus came! He rose! He conquered!

No, no, no, your faith or your beliefs cannot change your odds. It doesn’t hedge your bets, and it doesn’t build up a buffer zone that will keep life’s circumstances from finding you. BUT, it can shape your perspective on the narrative of your life. In I Thessalonians 4:13, we are told, “We do not want you to be uninformed brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope.”    

Dear one, even though this Easter you may be experiencing incredible pain, and maybe you are experiencing the full weight of a very broken world, but be encouraged friend, that Easter Sunday is coming, and because of Easter we have some present day relief, with the hope of complete and full future relief when God restores everything back to the way it was supposed to be! That’s what Jesus’ resurrection means! His resurrection is guarantee that one day we will experience FULL relief from the pain of this world. That it will all be restored and made right again.

So in the deepest parts of your hearts, where it hurts the most, continue to remind yourself that life is not supposed to be this way. We were not created to experience pain like this. We were not created to experience death. You were never meant to carry the weight of the tragedies in this world. God did not create the world and life to be this way. He made it completely perfect. Then sin entered through Adam and Eve and it all changed. Death, pain, and sadness is now interwoven throughout our lives. It is because of this, that Jesus came. It is because of this that we have Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He came to be a rescuer... to rescue us from this world that is NOT how he made it. He sent Jesus to die for our sin, to rise again, to rescue us, and to restore us. And one day, he is returning, but not as a humble, gentle baby this time, like we celebrate on Christmas day. This time, he is coming as a Warrior, coming to complete His rescue mission, coming to make everything right again. One day, the pain of losing loved ones, the pain of illness, the pain of broken relationships, and the all the pains of this world, will be made right. And so.... we have HOPE.

I pray dear friends, that you see a new sweetness to the significance of Easter Sunday. That God comforts you in a way you have never dreamed possible. That He not only comforts you here and now, but that He reminds you of the FULL restorative comfort that IS to come, that WILL come, that you are GUARANTEED, all because He rose again. His resurrection is your assurance that ALL of life will one day be restored, including every ounce of the suffering you experience today.

I pray these words find you well today. That you know you are thought of with great affection and that someone is praying God’s love and comfort on you during these days.