With Easter just days away, part of me feels the need to be in a mindset of celebration. After all, Easter is all about victory (and apparently a bunny that delivers baskets full of chocolate and those disgusting chicks made out of marshmallow)! However, I find myself paused. Standing still as the world rushes towards Easter morning, my heart settles on the suffering of those around me. In a matter of weeks, I’ve watched as friends and family wade through the trenches of extremely difficult and painful situations.
The darkest days that lead up to the dawn of Easter answer the question we find ourselves asking in the midst of deep sorrow: Where was God?
The moment you were told that you’d lost your job, just when money was needed most, He was with you. When you realized that you were in too deep, drowning your grief in the comfort of a drug addiction, He was with you. In the doctor’s office, when you were given the confusing and painful news that your child was being diagnosed with special needs, He was with you. In the midst of the heartbreaking agony of losing a baby you’ve waited years to hold in your arms, He was with you.
Our God is not a god who sits high up on His throne, ignorant of our pain. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 53 that Jesus was “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain”. In Matthew 26, He said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” After which, “being in anguish, he prayed…and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44)
The same God who created the Heavens and the Earth, Who holds all power and glory, chose become one of us…to experience real, human suffering to the greatest degree. For us. So that we’d never feel the full weight of our sin. So that we’d never be alone in our suffering. He loves us at our darkest (Romans 5:8) and meets us in the valley, when we feel we can’t go on. When the hurt is too deep, and we can’t even find the words to pray, “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
Where is God in the midst of your suffering? He is there. In your most agonizing, life-altering moments…He is there. In the middle of your mess. When no one understands, He “gets it”. When everyone else disappears, He shows up. When all else fails, He comes through. His plan for your life may not look at all like you thought it would. His timing may be far from what you’d like it to be. His mercies may come disguised as disasters. Because He can see the bigger picture, far beyond this soul-crushing moment. Faith calls us to trust…even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it hurts. To trust in a God who loved us enough to trade a crown of glory for a crown of thorns.
We want to look past the cross. To look past the gut-wrenching pain and suffering, to the redeeming light of the empty grave. It’s easier to simply celebrate Easter with loved ones, than to first meditate on the price that was paid. Especially when we’re already hurting. But, without His suffering, we’d have no hope for an end to our pain. No hope for life beyond the heartache.
Easter is a day to be celebrated! A day where evil and death are conquered. A day where hope and love prevail. But not without cost. Our suffering may be great. Our hearts may be broken. But, thanks to Jesus, we are not alone…and this is not the end.