A sunset is a beautiful, gorgeous thing. But, just imagine with me, that as the sun goes down in the sky and everything gets darker, that the sun would never rise again. We would never again feel the warmth of the glowing ball on our skin or the reflection of the light on our cars. The sunset would be a very sad thing to watch were that true.
Or, imagine with me, that when the green colors of the spring and summer begin to fade to brown, the leaves wither and die, and the flowers shrivel up and fall to the ground in the oncoming cold of winter, that it would be the end of Spring and Summer forever, that it would be Winter always and, yes, as C.S. Lewis would put it, never Christmas.
What if new life never came? What if the cold and the dark were forever? What if rebellion won? What if truth died? What if relationships ended, never to be restored? What if death was it?
But we know it isnâ€™t. Donâ€™t we? It couldnâ€™t be. It just canâ€™t.
â€œRestore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.â€ Psalm 51:12
The truth is we, as humans created in the image of God, crave new life. We crave restoration, redemption, and reconciliation. We need it.
The truth is, we know that the next day the sun rises again. Day after day, the sun sets and the sun rises. It is something that gives us great hope and we see it every day. We know that, when winter comes, three months later spring will come and the flowers will rise. We know too, that when the savior dies on that old rugged cross and the sky grows dark and all hope seems lost, three days later, He rises again.
The promise of Easter is that that life comes, death is not final, darkness never lasts, and that restoration, redemption, and resurrection is not only possible, it is inevitable. I believe that God has created us with a deep desire for restoration and redemption. That is why it is so horrible to experience the tidal wave of pain of a broken relationship. That is why we rejoice in weddings. That is why we grieve and cry and weep at funerals. That is why we rejoice and celebrate the new born life of a precious child. We crave life and we hate death. Death was never meant to be. Death was brought about as the result of sin in the original Garden.
â€œThe sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.â€ 1 Corinthians 15:56
â€œFor the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.â€ Romans 6:23
This is why it was devastating to our Lord God when death was brought into life. This is why our savior, Jesus, was angry at the tomb of his dear brother Lazarus. This is why, in John 11:35. â€œJesus wept.â€
â€œWhen Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, â€˜Where did you put him?â€™ â€˜Master, come and see,â€™ they said. Now Jesus wept.â€ (John 11:33-35)
Death was never meant to be. We were never meant to die. But because of our sin, because of our failure, death becomes the reality.
We, as human, crave more than the acceptance of broken and dead relationships and love. We crave more than separation and rejection.
We crave reconciliation. We need it. But is reconciliation without forgiveness? What is redemption without suffering?
I think that suffering is the university course that teaches us not only about the condition of our heart, but reveals to us the power of the sufficient sustaining grace of God. To me, suffering is like a seed in planted in the winter ground, and when Spring finally shows up, it bursts through the cold, hard ground and reaches for the sun while revealing a beautiful bloom of redemption.
Lot of us understand suffering. Well, so does our savior. Because he came to the earth and suffered just like us. He was mocked, betrayed, denied, hated, ignored, rejected, spit upon, beaten, flogged, pierced, and crucified.
Sometimes God calls us to this to â€œtake up our crossâ€ and suffer alongside of him. In fact, I would say that he calls all of us to suffer at some level. To suffer is to grow, like the seed planted in the ground. Suffering is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would put it, the Cost of Discipleship.
â€œIf we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christâ€™s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear , but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.â€
â€• Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Sometimes we find ourselves in that â€œwaiting placeâ€. It is a place where find our faith and hope being tested and stretched further than ever before. This waiting place is the place we find ourselves when we are waiting on restoration, waiting on redemption, waiting on resurrection, waiting on life, it is the darkness before the dawn. It is the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday (Easter); the waiting place.
I am so glad our savior willingly and humbly rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday knowing full well he would die on Friday. He embraced his suffering and this waiting place because he believed God was going to do what He said he would do. He submitted to this, because He loved us! “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) and that was never revealed to be truer when our Savior walked out of the grave. Christ waited on the cross and in the grave because He trusted God. So we too, suffer and wait on our promised restoration and promised redemption. For you â€œknow with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failedâ€ Joshua 23:14)
His grace disguised as pain, tears, emptiness of soul, loneliness, heartache, and endless waiting will bring you to a place of witnessing Him in ways you never imagined. This disguised grace, his healing from tears, and blessing from raindrops will reveal to you His constant presence, His awesome power, His perfect provision, His abundant peace, and sufficient grace. In the “waiting place” your faith is strengthened.
Just as Christ broke the bread and poured out the wine at the passover meal on Maundy Thursday, just as his body was broken and his blood was shed on Good Friday, so we are also called to be â€œbroken and poured outâ€.
â€œFor I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, â€œThis is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.â€ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, â€œThis cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.â€ Â For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lordâ€™s death until he comes.â€ (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
What should “broken and poured out” look like in your life?
Easter is the day when we celebrate the fact that, like the sun and the easter lily, the Son of God rose again. And just as the disciples did not have to say goodbye to Jesus when he died, just as we do not have to say goodbye to the sun when it sets or the flower when it falls, we never have to say goodbye to each other. Â Restoration is real. And itâ€™s real here on this earth because of the power of the cross! â€œAnd I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten…â€â€ Joel 2:25. Redemption is alive. Heaven is just on the other side of death, for those that belong to Christ.
The sun goes down, but the sunrise comes. The darkness arrives, but morning dawns. Winter comes, but spring will bloom. Heartache will surpise, but restoration is within reach. Death will strike, but it doesnâ€™t have the final word.
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55
Restoration is real. Our hope becomes faith because of the power of the empty cross and our risen savior.
His death is glorious. Spring is hopeful. The sunset is a beautiful, gorgeous thing.
â€œAnd the Lord restored the fortunes of Job…And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.â€ Job 42:10
Come quickly, Spring.