Well, it's Friday before Easter, and once again, I am hit with an oppressive burden!
Seems like every year, about this time, some HUGE NIGHTMARE comes charging into my life...and this year is no exception. I was informed last night of a sudden financial obligation I have for over $8K! One that has to be dealt with before 4/26! Needless to say, I don't have a clue as to how to come up money like that...I am already stretched so very thin...
And when I got the phone call last night, it cratered me. I crawled up inside, wallowed around in despair, lost perspective and hope, and generally took my place inside the 'tomb'.
Now, quite honestly, after 25 years of this I have learned something about these experiences, and even though the surface emotions are quite vicious and powerful, I still have peace and confidence as a deeper substrate now--an awareness that I will get through this one too ("through many dangers, toils, and snares...").
I remind myself of the psalmist's words (a writer VERY experienced with challenges!):
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm42:5,11: 43:5)He was disturbed and downcast, but he had BEEN THERE BEFORE and had experienced God's deliverance.
It's the next day as I write this and my attitude is much better. Hope and balance have been restored through interaction with Him in my quiet time and just the running conversation we have in my heart (but no money has appeared yet, of course, but His goal of the experience is not monetary--its one of my personal spiritual growth and joy.).
So, I will yet praise Him...
But the reason I bring this up--(other than to solicit your prayers!)--concerns our expectations of our God. These experiences, which are NOT limited to Easter season I assure you(!), always call to my mind the paradigm-case of no-hope scenarios: the disciples with a dead Messiah.
It came to me about a decade ago, when I was pondering the significance of the resurrection for today (apart from the obvious theological implications for Christ's person, purpose; the Father's acceptance of his sacrificial death as our substitute; etc.). I put myself in the shoes (or sandals) of the disciples---
Here they were at the end of the road. They had abandoned careers and fortunes to follow this messiah. They had experienced success and scorn, but were assured of a significant place of responsibility in the Kingdom when their Master had succeeded--BEFORE he was executed as a common criminal. They were very closely identified with this messiah--who was now dead and lying in a tomb outside the city. They were afraid for their lives, afraid of their beliefs, and probably even afraid for their sanity.
I asked myself: what was the BEST they could hope for, all huddled together in fear in hiding? What 'options' did they have?
And I realized that the most astute among them probably understood that the VERY BEST outcome for them would be for the Pharisees to approach them with an offer of conciliation. Perhaps even a public ceremony, in which the leaders condescendingly 'thanked' the disciples (and their movement) for 'drawing attention to' an aspect of Judaism of the common folk that PERHAPS had received a bit too little attention in recent times. They would then welcome the disciples back into the fellowship (perhaps with a whitewashed 'dig' at the obvious extremism of their MASTER; which extremism the disciples OBVIOUSLY did not possess, since THEY were still alive.) So the disciples would have been reinstated, the tensions relieved, and after 6 months--the whole affair completely forgotten by the nation (and perhaps almost forgotten by the disciples). They would be back on their careers, families stabilized, status quo maintained.
They were too 'sensible' to have hope for anything better.
There is a quote I have learned to love:
"People can live a few weeks without food, a few days without water, a few minutes without air...but people cannot leave even one second without hope"That was probably the BEST they could dream of...The LAST THING they would dream for/hope for/expect was for their Leader-Lord to conquer death and return to life victorious and without many of the limitations of this world! The last thing they would DARE to DREAM for, would be the Resurrection! Newness of Life! Inconceivable possibilities! Unheard of "options"!
Even though Jesus had tried to drill this into them many, many times in the gospels (perhaps to preclude their responses of such dark and deep despair?), they just didn't get it. Their expectations of their God was so low.
Every Easter, God reminds me that no matter how difficult the situation I face, no matter how impossible the obstacle (what could be more 'impossible' than death to overthrow?!), no matter how hopeless the challenge seems, THERE IS ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF RESURRECTION! No matter how dark, how confusing, how intractable the burden is, THERE IS ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF RESURRECTION! No matter how crushing the weight, how blinding the pain, how dismal a 'no-options' scenario might look, THERE IS ALWAYS THE POSSIBILITY OF RESURRECTION!
Each year He "springs me out" of bigger and bigger traps. I have come to expect this from Him, though my heart is still 'disturbed and downcast' while I wait for His help.
I hope, as you experience Easter morning this year, as you bring YOUR crises and burdens to Him, as you inwardly weep with anguish and frustration, that you would also remember...that tomb was empty, that body gone, that savior alive, that Helper in action!
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens... Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death. (Psalm68:19-20)