Easter: Our Tears Meet Hope & Joy

Happy Easter, My Reading Friends!

Every year I become more excited about celebrating this Holy Week! How could I face every day without the confident hope that death isn’t the end? What would our family do without the peace that John is safe in God’s care, and we will see him again?

God has offered us hope beyond death, and it is the best news anyone could ever hear. When death has hit close to home (or in your home), life gets bottom line serious. Who can rescue us from death’s reality?

I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God has given us hope in the life and death of Christ. I can’t imagine my life stuck in the despair of John’s death. For me, Easter isn’t just a spring holiday. It is the reason I can live and breathe every day.

As the years go by, I find that I am more aware of Easter’s roller-coaster of emotions. I wasn’t before. In years past, I was only focused on the joy of Easter Sunday. But, now, I am more aware of the grief that lead up to that day.

And, it feels familiar.

Now, I am more intimate with the pain of death. I identify with how powerless Mary and the disciples felt as the One they loved was seized, sentenced, and cruelly crucified before their very eyes. I identify with the women who woke up determined to do what needed to be done: find Jesus’s body and lovingly, tenderly, respectfully prepare it for burial. I now know what it feels like to wake up and wish it had all been a bad dream.

Yet, I am also more intimate with the sweet relief of God’s hope and comfort. Daily I live with the contrast of my sorrow over the loss of John, and the joy of knowing he is with God and our separation is temporary. I dream of the moment when I see Jesus face to face, and beyond Him somewhere will be John, alive and smiling.

Easter has become a time to rejoice that our salty tears can meet the delight of hope & joy.

There’s real sorrow as we consider Jesus’s betrayal and physical pain and unanswered prayer. Jesus personally knows what it is to suffer and die, unjustly accused, rejected, and alone.

But, Easter also fills us with relief and joy because Jesus came back to life and promises to share eternity with us. We don’t have to live dreading death.

Not only that, but our brokenness and sin is no longer a heavy burden we have to carry through each day. Jesus has brought forgiveness, grace, and life to each and every day and all of our tomorrows, as we trust that He made things right between us and God.

For people who believe in Christ as the Son of God and follow Him as Lord of their personal lives, this is a week of embracing the fullness of Christ’s story- the deepest sorrow and the greatest joy.

But, no doubt about it, Resurrection Sunday’s joy overwhelms Good Friday’s sorrow because we confidently know that the story isn’t over: we will one day finally see and be with God forever!

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

SO IN LIGHT OF ALL THAT GOOD NEWS…

I want to give you some gifts! They are free and they can be passed along to anyone else. These are all things that have recently encouraged my faith. Just click whatever is blue and it will take you there…

I made a playlist of my favorite contemporary worship songs, many we sing at church. They are on Apple and Spotify, just click and enjoy. The playlist is the same on each one.
Apple Music: Favorite Contemporary Worship 2017-Apple
and also on Spotify: Worship Songs to Lift Your Heart- Spotify
(You will need to have Apple Music or Spotify installed on your phone or computer to listen.)

Here is a recent sermon I really enjoyed (as did my 15 yo son, so that’s a strong recommendation). “Savior” by David Dwight  Take a listen or you can watch the video. It is great to download sermons to hear as you drive and walk and cook and garden… There are many at Hope’s sermons online.

Last year I wrote a blog for Easter, and I still like it. : )  Here it is if you haven’t read it before: Easter is My Every Day

And, if you don’t have a church family, join Hope for our Easter Sunday Worship at Altria Theater in downtown Richmond this Sunday at 9:00 and 11:00. Here are the details: Hope Easter Sunday

May God fill your mind and heart with joy that rescue has come. Spread the good news!

Celebrating Easter every day,
maria

He Loves Us Back to Life

Last month, March 8 came around again and marked five years since John went to heaven. Five years is a long time to miss someone you love.

Years ago, in our early days of dating and marriage, I feared losing John. I couldn’t imagine life without him. The thought of experiencing a loss that great would paralyze me. I couldn’t imagine surviving much less ever thriving again. I believed that if he died, my life would be permanently broken.

And, then after twenty two years together, what I feared actually happened. One early spring day, he was gone without a goodbye. For months, the days were gray and the future dim, but as the years have gone by, something miraculous has been happening: God’s tender, consistent love has wooed me out from under grief’s shadow.

His love just keeps showing up. He keeps on delighting my heart with moments I love. He surprises me with blessings that I couldn’t have imagined and joy I couldn’t see five years ago. Full, real, deep, fresh joy.

And, yes, I sometimes daydream about John walking through the door and how wonderful it would be for all of us. I will always want him back.

But, God is filling my life with real joy and real laughter and real peace. And, that, surprises me. I never thought it would be possible to feel like I love my life again.

I underestimated my Heavenly Father. 

I underestimated the powerful gift He gave us in Jesus Christ.

Because, what I realize now is that
Jesus Christ is a Savior, not only for the dead, but also for the living.

On March 8, John needed a Savior, and God met John’s deepest need for rescue from death. As a little boy, John had simply believed Jesus Christ’s promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” At 44 as he collapsed on a jogging trail, John’s belief transformed into present reality as God brought him home to heaven.

But, all of us- John’s family and friends- needed a Savior that day too. God’s consoling love came to our rescue. He fulfilled the promises He has made to love us well when grief hits hard. His love has never stopped, whether it was through His Spirit’s reassurance in the middle of the night or as He prompted someone to help, pray, or simply give a hug.

On March 8, God’s love was set in motion in a new way in our family, and it continues to heal and restore us. Years ago when I feared tragedy, I simply didn’t account for the fact that God’s sustaining grace and goodness and love could outsize grief.

Five years out, I can truly say He is doing just that: His love is bringing joy and gladness into my life and deep into my soul. My life is becoming a different kind of wonderful as He patiently loves and steadies me. I am learning that nothing is too big for Him to overshadow with His peace and truth and presence and eternal perspective.

No matter what any of us have faced in the past or what we may face in the future, His love can bring true healing and bright hope and deep joy and settled peace. You don’t need to be afraid of what may be ahead. He will be your anchor for any and every storm.

There will be days when it feels like we’ve lost our bearing. But, it’s okay. He will be there to help our faith get back up again. It takes time to learn to trust and listen to His love instead of our emotions and fears.

But He is patient and steadily encourages us as we learn to live in today with Him. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that we are blessed to be comforted by God. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The treasure and wonder of the past five years has been experiencing God’s love and sustaining strength and peace. Jesus is right. It is a blessing to personally experience the tender comfort of God.

May you know with greater confidence that God will give us everything we need for this life’s journey- yesterday, today and tomorrow. You don’t have to go there alone.

with His love that brings us back to life,
maria