Easter: Hope for When Life Feels Too Hard

Nothing like this had happened in decades.

About a week before the winter storm hit my state, Texas on February 15, meteorologists had predicted a week of freezing temperatures. We were given a few days to prepare: schools were cancelled, and we stocked up on groceries for the week, covered our pipes, and waited.

While power outages were expected to some degree because of the ice and snow, what had happened was a widespread power failure that left millions of Texans without electricity and heat—in the midst of the lowest temperatures we’d seen in years! As people’s pipes began to burst all over the state, water became a serious issue as well.

As a family, we weathered our cold days and nights by huddling in bed—all four of us, for body heat—and piling on the layers and blankets. The kids loved it—a family sleepover party! Looking back on this, I do hope our kids remember this time fondly. But at the time, it was anything but fun.

 

How to Pray When You’re Feeling Helpless

I struggled to pray during this time. We had power for much longer than most people, but because of unsafe, icy roads and COVID, there was little we could do for our family and friends.

What do you pray when there is so much trouble around you and nothing you can do? For my pregnant due-any-moment friend with no power and roads covered in ice between her and the hospital? For my former neighbor who cares for her husband with dementia—as if that weren’t enough, she hurt her back right before all this happened. Who is taking care of them? I wondered. How do I pray in this situation?

I went to Scripture. There are dualities there I often pray: In the darkness, He is light (Psalm 18:28). When I am weak, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). But what about the cold? In my coldness, He is warm? No, we don’t find that promise in Scripture, and we didn’t feel warmth then either . . . How could I put to words the weariness and fear we were feeling?

On the third night of the storm, I couldn’t sleep, because of either worry, the cold, or our wriggly kiddos. I began to think about how the next day would be Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In Lent, we share in Christ’s suffering and look toward His resurrection. When I realized this timeline, my mind immediately went to a quote from Eugene Peterson that has always struck me:

“We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.”

That quote began to shed light on what was happening around me. We had been relinquishing our terms right and left the last few days. All over Texas, we were experiencing little “deaths”—death of our heaters, our power, our water, our routines and plans . . . and so much more. All of a sudden, I felt equipped for how to pray.

My prayer became that we would be able to view these hardships as little “deaths” that would in turn prepare us for practicing resurrection. And what better time than at the beginning of Lent? Things were not at all how they should be, but these must be experienced in order for us to know and participate in resurrection.

 

From Suffering to Redemption

What does it mean, though, to practice resurrection? How do we actually do that?

Ultimately, practising resurrection is about learning to see how God can redeem our hard circumstances, moments where we feel like we’re suffering, and situations we can’t understand.

This makes me think of the death of my friend, Paula. She committed suicide when we were sophomores in high school. That grief and pain that followed were real and valid. But with the years that have passed, I can now look back and begin to see the small ways that God has redeemed even that tragic act—how our youth group became unified in our grief, how I can now openly speak to my students (current sophomores) about depression and suicide—all of this is God taking something tragic and terrible and using it for good. He’s making beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3); that’s what He does!

I also think about this in terms of the pandemic. Consider all we’ve weathered in the last year or so. What “deaths” have you faced? Actual death of a loved one? Loss of job and income? Isolation? Have they felt in vain at times?

There’s no denying that suffering is part of being a Christ-follower. Jesus was not silent on this subject. In fact, he was pretty straightforward about it. In John 16:33, He said: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Sacrifice, self-denial, suffering—these are at the root of what it means to be a Christian.

But he doesn’t end there. He also says “Take heart, I have overcome the world!” This speaks of that resurrection that we can cling to. Because we have a God who has defeated the power of death and suffering, we are empowered to better endure them.

 

From “Why” to “For What”

Hebrews 12:2 tells us that Christ endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” We see in his life and actions how to encounter death and suffering, and how to keep our eyes fixed on the assurance of what’s to come. When we experience things that grieve us, or when we willingly deny ourselves something, all for the sake of Christ, we come to know Him more tangibly, uniting with Him through our suffering and sacrifice.

What I’ve been encouraged to do lately is this: instead of asking WHY these things are happening or complaining about them, to begin to pray that I could view them through this lens of suffering— suffering that will allow me to see all things redeemed.

In fact, just days after our storm, I was in a funk about something work-related. I walked around moody, distracted, complaining. How quickly I had forgotten! My immediate attitude was not one that viewed this hardship as an opportunity to look to Jesus.

It will definitely take a renewing of minds and habits to practice resurrection in our daily lives. We must learn, I must learn, by experience, to participate in and walk through these “deaths” while keeping in mind that redemption will come.

And one day, we will know it ultimately and fully—we will experience resurrection ourselves, and we will be united with Christ in this new life!

Our crazy world seems to be preparing for Easter in rather unexpected ways this year: we continue to witness and experience various sufferings, and so we practice dying to self. But rest assured, all this is not in vain. We are being united with Christ. We are practicing resurrection.

Be encouraged, my friends. Easter is coming.

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