I don't think much convincing is needed to make you agree that there is suffering in the world. Even when the sun is shining and my house is clean and my family is together, like today, you don't have to look far to see all the pain and hurt around us. Just this morning my sweet friend Niki shared about her mother who is in the midst of a ravenous fight with cancer; and yesterday my friend Libby posted on her blog about a 13 year old girl in Chesapeake who was hit by a car and killed when she went back into the road to get the cell phone she had dropped while crossing.
The Easter story is FULL of suffering. In fact, for most of my life, I've pictured the pierced and bloody body of Jesus on the cross whenever I think of Easter. (Well, that plus dyed eggs, big hats, & jellybeans - which is a whole other post for another time.)
The story of the cross is not a pretty one. It is scandalous and heart-wrenching. It is about betrayal by the very people who sang His praises and bowed at His feet just a week before. More than that, it is about MY betrayal. It is about Jesus doing for ME, what I could NEVER do for myself - no matter how many lists or twelve step plans I make. As Niki said today in her testimony, "just the Creator of the Universe sending his son to live among us would have been enough to show his love for us.. But, He went even further..." Our God KNOWS suffering, and yet he CHOSE to do it to save us.
But... There is another image that doesn't get nearly enough emphasis in my version of Easter - that of the EMPTY TOMB. See, God didn't send his only son to simply die on the cross as a "free pass" for us to heaven. He rose him from the dead three days later --- if it wasn't for that fact, Jesus would have just been any other religious martyr.
God sent his Son to give us LIFE. Not just after we die, but RIGHT NOW. Today. And, not just on Easter when we wear our Sunday best and remember the Gospel, but the other 364 days a year too.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! - 1 Peter 1:3
Jesus knows our pain intimately. He knows because He's been here. The extent of His pain was real.
Shortly before he died, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 23:42). He knew what was coming, and - because he was fully human - he asked the Lord to stop it. But, ultimately, he knew that God's plan had to be accomplished; because his ways are better than our ways.
Beth Moore says something like this and it rings SO true in my life: So often, when I talk about trusting God, I mean that I trust him to do what I want, to protect me from my greatest fears and to give me the things I hope for... But, that isn't real trust. Real trust comes in the suffering. Real trust comes in knowing that, through Jesus, we can have HOPE for a good and full life... Even when the rain comes.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. - John 10:10
Easter isn't just about the suffering... It is a celebration of the fact that even DEATH cannot hold back our God. He is stronger than any stone or struggle. His gift to us isn't just salvation (although I'm certainly thankful for that too), but LIFE here and now, even in the midst of suffering.
I hope you will find joy and peace in that hope today.
For more about what I believe, check out this post from last Easter.