Suffering at Easter
If there’s one thing I know about you, it’s this: your life will include suffering.
Perhaps your suffering is public. You’ve lost a loved one, or been in an accident. Or maybe you suffer in silence. Perhaps it wouldn’t be right to talk openly about the situation or person who grieves you.
No matter the depth of your pain, know this. You are not alone, and you are not without hope. How can I be sure? Easter.

Jesus suffered at Easter, and he has promised to never leave or forsake you. He will walk with you. He also walked before you, leaving you an example. I Peter 4:1 says that as Jesus approached the cross, he “armed himself with [a] way of thinking” (I Pet. 4:1). Arming yourself means preparing for attack. Arming yourself with a way of thinking implies that the attack is in your mind.

Often the greatest battles are in our mind. If you approach Easter with a grieving heart, heavy with suffering, here are some thoughts to arm yourself with:

 

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. In this you rejoice though now for a little while if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes through it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice. (I Peter 1: 6-8,  bold emphasis mine)

his great mercy”

God is merciful to give us hope. He could, I suppose, demand that we trust and obey him without any inkling of the reversal to come. But God is too kind and merciful for that. He is a good, good father who lavishes his grieving children with hope.

 

“a living hope”

Imagine there was a man being interviewed on all of the networks, who had been pronounced dead three days prior. Then, on the third day, an experimental ointment was poured onto his chest which caused his heart to begin beating again, and his lungs to fill with air. He was alive! Wouldn’t such a news story stir hope into our hearts and our communities? Imagine the tweets and the facebook posts on that day!

Yet this is the story we celebrate at Easter. There was no ointment, only supernatural power of God. Jesus was dead. His heart stopped beating. His lungs stopped filling with air. They placed his body in a grave. And then, he rose again. He is alive and well.

The story of Jesus raising from the dead encapsulates the hope that we have for ourselves, and for all who face things like:

  • cancer or disease
  • losing a baby
  • caring for aging loved ones

Even when our suffering is tainted with the dread of death, we have hope. Why? Because there is a way to live again! There is a grand reversal of death coming for all of us who love Jesus. Jesus is our living and breathing hope.

for a little while”

This is God’s perspective, not ours. God sees from an eternal perspective. He sees what we can’t. But when we adopt God’s perspective, this is when we have hope. “A little while” to God can be a whole lot of “little whiles” all strung together for us.

But imagine the…

  • mom who has just lost a baby.
  • wife who has just lost her marriage.
  • mother whose teen is in jail.
  • daughter whose mom has been given three weeks to live.

Imagine the gut wrenching sorrow each of these women will face in a single day, or even a single hour. Now picture, rather than gulping in waves of grief, or sinking into the pit of fear, these women each responded this way instead: “For this little while, I will choose hope over despair.” What if they did this over and over and over?

Suffering is a mountain climbed in a series of steps, not just one step of surrender. It’s the hope of what awaits us at the top of the mountain, in heaven, which gives us fuel for the next uphill “little while”. God comes to walk beside us as we climb. He steadies us when we stumble and whispers encouragement when the next “little while” seems too steep, to slippery, too hard. God also calls to us from the top of the mountain, echoing words of hope about the treasures being kept for us in heaven (I Pet. 1:4).

For each step of suffering, he says, “Just a little while more!”

if necessary”
I know, I know. It doesn’t seem necessary. In the same way that a three-year-old doesn’t think a nap is necessary. Or and eight-year-old doesn’t think brushing his teeth is necessary. We would never, never, ever choose grief for ourselves. But our loving father sees that it is necessary for us to go through painful trials. He, knowing our hearts and our potential to grow willful and detached from him, painstakingly chooses for each of his children the pain which has the most potential for good. He is for us! He loves us! When we give in to God’s parenting, and trust that he is good, we bring such glory to God and prove that our faith is genuine. (I Pet. 1:7)
though you do not see him, you love him”
This is a good definition for faith, don’t you think? Faith is believing that God exists, and that he will reward those who persist in loving him, even during their grief. It’s easy to love God when all is cheerful and sunny and the future seems bright. It’s hard to love God when your eyes are fogged up with tears, and he feels so far away.
He’s not! He’s near, very near. He wants you to run into his arms. To love him more than anything else–even a healthy child, a comfortable lifestyle, a carefree family, or a happy marriage. Friend, may you know that God is working good in the midst of your pain and suffering.
He loves you.
He loves you.
He loves you.
He knows you can’t see him or his purposes right now, but he invites you to love him anyway. To choose eyes of faith, and a heart filled with hope for all the good he has in store for you.
May you truly have a Happy Easter, with a heart filled with hope of all that awaits for those who love Jesus.

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