Easter is over. The hymns of joy have been sung, the eggs have been hunted and found, and the leftover candy is calling to me from the pantry. Easter Monday has dawned with clouds and showers. We are relaxing from a busy Holy Week and Easter Sunday with a sense of contentment, but also the feeling that the tires have gone a little flat. We celebrated the resurrection. Now what?
On the day after Easter you open your eyes and realize that, even on this side of the resurrection, you still live with the issues you had before Easter. Where does the resurrection fit in when your life is turned upside down by illness or death of a friend or loved one, when you are hurt or marginalized by someone important to you, when crushing disappointments dog your days? When you’re not in a crowd of Easter worshipers, singing “Up From the Grave He Arose,” but instead shedding lonely tears in the dead of night, how do you still have joy in the resurrection?
Like everything else in life, how we deal with pain is significantly about attitude. And it’s also about truth. Most of us have tunnel vision. We live by our feelings. And we think everything is about us. Even though we might have correct resurrection theology, so often it doesn’t travel the road to where we live, day in and day out.
As I read personal stories of Christians who experience severe persecution, I’m stunned by their prayer requests. They don’t ask for prayer for the persecution to stop. They ask for prayer that they will be faithful to Christ, and faithful witnesses to their persecutors. Not that they wouldn’t love the mistreatment to stop. But they realize that their suffering isn’t all there is, and it isn’t permanent. Their greatest desire is to bring honor to the One they love, the One who asks them to be His ambassadors. They know they are called to live out the gospel in their painful circumstances, because God’s heart is for their persecutors to know and understand His love. They know and believe with all their hearts that a day is coming when the glory of heaven will infinitely outweigh their present pain.
So living in the resurrection doesn’t mean you escape pain. It means knowing that your grief and pain is part of a bigger story, not just your story. It’s a story of God’s victory over death in the resurrection of Jesus, and the coming day when all the implications of that victory are finally played out and settled into place. Between the resurrection and that coming day is where we live now. It often feels like a long, hard road home. We struggle, we weep, we get weary. But there is always the hope of the resurrection, confidence that the God who raised His Son from the dead will finally make all things right, and that we, those who hope through our tears, will lay the fruit of our trust at His feet.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans, said, “… we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Our hope isn’t blind optimism. On the contrary, it’s the assurance of our eternal future with God, and is based on His love, revealed to us by the Spirit, and objectively demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Christ (to paraphrase the note from my NIV Study Bible.)
Or, as Paul says later in Romans, “If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?” These are words to lift our sagging souls, to put the air back in our after-Easter tires. God is for us in everything that grieves us. He proved it by the resurrection. And we know that a day is coming when all things will be made right. That is the hope of our after-Easter lives.