Ah, the joy of a 4-day weekend where we eat lots of chocolate and welcome in the Spring season! This year it's also a special season for many - as the lockdown restrictions are easing in the UK, we are celebrating our freedom to see loved ones again.
I posted a little piece about Easter Sunday on Facebook last year, when lockdown had just started. Seeing as we've reached a year of the Covid-19 lockdown, I thought it was worth re-posting these thoughts as a blog.
During this upside-down season, it seems that we are becoming more aware of not only the present suffering the Corona virus is causing, but the suffering that people endure day to day & it is amazing to see how communities have stepped up in response.
I feel that this is highly relevant to one of the lessons Jesus teaches us through his resurrection; that whilst suffering is something we all experience (including Him!) & we cannot change that, what we can control is how we respond to it.
Side note: I realise that not everyone will be in a place to think about how to respond to suffering & I don’t for one second underestimate how some will be feeling today, but I hope this is a helpful post for those who do feel in a place to read on.
There is so much we can learn from Jesus’s own experiences on Earth & the greatest act of love, the resurrection, which sits at the centre of our faith, has so much to teach us.
Here are some thoughts on how we can respond to suffering in our present situation:
1. Faithfulness 🙏🏼
Exercising faith 💪🏼
Surprisingly, looking back at when Jesus rose from the grave, for most, it wasn’t a time of celebration at first.
In John 20, the disciples had heard that Jesus had risen, but were hiding inside with their doors locked, fearing for their lives (funny how similar lockdown felt!). They were scared of the Jews & felt abandoned by Jesus. They didn’t believe he had risen, but Jesus came to save them anyway. He came in & stood among them, blessing them, saying “peace be with you” & that same radical act of love applies in our lives today.
Jesus pursued them out of love but was disappointed that He had to prove to them that He had really risen from the dead.
In John 20:29 Jesus said,
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen & yet have believed”.
During our time in lockdown, we have an amazing opportunity to learn from the message He left us with after His resurrection. In 1 Peter 1:6-7 it says that just as gold is refined by fire, sticking with God throughout suffering molds the “genuineness of your faith”.
Just like working out, exercising our faith makes us stronger & is so good for the soul:
“the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature & complete, not lacking anything”. - James 1:3
Healthy Hope 🌈
Romans 5:4 points out that persevering your faith leads to hope & Hebrews 11:1 says
“FAITH is confidence in what we HOPE for & assurance in what we do not see.”
Throughout the bible, faith, hope & love go hand in hand. In 1 Peter 1:3 he explains that “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus”.
Not only did the Jesus’s new life give us a great excuse to stuff our faces with chocolate eggs, but it also personified hope & was the greatest act of love. The rainbow symbols people were putting in their windows to thank the NHS reminded me how powerful hope is in creating unity & building people's faith that things will get better.
Whilst hoping takes a leap of faith, science & the bible tells us that hope is really healthy for us. Through Through scientific & medical research Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Caroline Leaf found that
“when we hope, it is an activity of the mind that changes the structure of our brain in a positive direction”.
The bible describes hope as “an unbreakable spiritual lifeline”; it really is powerful to have hope through the hard times.
2. With empathy 💐
We are family 🎶
I think sometimes it’s easy to forget that God really does consider us His family.
‘both the one who makes men holy (God) & those who are made holy (us) are of the same family.’ - Hebrews 2:11
‘Since the children have flesh & blood, he too shared in their humanity’. - Hebrews 2:14
I don’t know about you, but the more I consider how precious we are to Jesus, it really humbles me when I read that He shared in our humanity, because I start to understand why. Not only did he come to save us but He also came to show us that He knows how it feels to be in our shoes.
Whether it is dealing with loss, physical pain, loneliness, being disowned by those closest to you, Jesus endured it all when He was here & empathises with your pain.
We can imitate Him by using our own experiences of suffering can be used to empathise & love one another if we choose to do so.
Loving one another well 💕
God commands us to love one another, but what does that look like?
I don't know about you, but my natural reaction to seeing others upset by trying to fix things & I always thought this came from a place of love, but I’ve realised it isn’t always that helpful - Through my own experience & doing life with others, I’ve had to learn that there are times for mourning & that’s ok.
God not only blesses us through our 'good' seasons, but we also receive His blessing in the hard times: one of the Beautitudes is “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
Why is mourning important? My main take from this verse is that Godly sorrow is part of a healing process: Ecclesiastes 7:3 “Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better”. Not only can we choose to receive His comfort during the dark times, but by going through our own hard times, we can understand how to help others appropriately too (there is another blog post expanding on this coming called 'Sitting in Sadness').
3. Looking on the bright side ✨
Suffering comes in many different forms. In my experience of being chronically ill, there have been many times where I’ve recognized I have developed a totally different perspective. I remember a time after being in the ICU for 2 weeks, I went outside for the first time & I had never been so amused by the sight of some ducks! Whilst I was probably a little ditzy from the drugs, I was thankful for my freedom in a whole new way.
John 16:22 Jesus, ahead of his death, told His disciples:
‘Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again & you will rejoice, & no one will take away your joy’.
Whilst Jesus knew that his closest friends would suffer, He promised joy & the suffering they were going to endure would only enhance that joy they would experience when they saw Him again. In Isaiah 53 where he was prophesying about the resurrection, in verse 11 it says ‘after He has suffered, He will see the light of life’ or rather, the fruit of His suffering.
So only after he had suffered, died & risen again would Jesus recognise the significance of it all.
Whilst we know people around us have suffered, are suffering or will in future, we are in a unique point in time where we have a generous amount of opportunity to recognise the good right on our doorsteps.
The time we have spent in lockdown has only enhanced our joy, with this weekend being a time of celebration for many, appreciating time with friends and family like never before.
Above all, the resurrection was an incredibly radical act of love, Jesus sacrificed himself to lead us into a new way of living & no matter how you spent your Easter weekend I hope this leaves you feeling loved & encouraged.
Out of all I’ve said above, there is a verse that really sums up what God asks of us:
‘But for right now, we have three things to lead us. Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly’. - 1 Cor 13:13
Lots of love!