Days. Months. Years. The ‘Winter’ of suffering continues for many in our world. Tragedies strike. Injustice continues unchecked. Starvation is real. Daily, across our planet, 21,000 children perish. Grinding poverty marches on, generation after generation, stealing souls. Illnesses ravage once healthy bodies. Chronic, consuming pain tortures millions. For others, mental anguish and emotional battles drudge on, unseen though fully real.
Broken societies. Broken families. Broken relationships. Broken dreams. Broken hearts. Broken bodies. Broken lives. Brokenness
Will it ever be any better? What can we do? How will we respond?
What will we believe? Is God active, does God intervene? Does God make any difference in the living of actual life? With no tangible effect of God’s presence, can we believe that God is even real?
Even as the effects of winter belie the truths of springtime, sometimes ‘life’ would say maybe God isn’t real.
Gray skies loom outside my window, no visible signs of a sun. Empty flowerbeds seem drab and lifeless. Ice and snow cover brown, dead, grasses.
Battered by storms, snow, ice, wind, and frigid temperatures, even the trees of winter offer no apparent hope. Only remnants of what was, their eerie shapes look menacing against the night sky.
Just as perhaps long ago a Roman cross looked eerie against the sky, offering no signs of life. Even though Jesus had known it was coming. Told His closest friends that His body would be broken, lifted up, sacrificed, given in death. Still their hearts had said no, not possible. There has to be another lamb, another way.
But then, prophecy was fulfilled. Jesus crucified. Last words, last gasp, and His body succumbed to the tortures of the past hours. Darkness shrouded the world. Hope died . . . or did it?
For some of you, it surely seems to have disappeared. Sometimes there is not one logical reason left to cause you to have hope. Nothing tangible anywhere near. Suffering, pain, circumstances can give every indication that pain, evil, or death will win. Perhaps satan does reign . . . but does he?
In many ways, I must admit that the only possible answer is yes. Especially as evil seems to be winning in so many places, destroying so many lives. War, genocide, child soldiers, marginalized and abused people. Droughts, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires continue to sweep the globe, bringing devastation.
Yearly, even winter’s visage – barren tree limbs, dead grasses, hibernating animals, ice encrusted rivers and lakes – would suggest that death has won, life is over.
But then appearances never were the end of the story . . . oh, how I believe that pain, suffering and sorrow don’t have to be the end to our stories.
Our Savior, our God, is not dead, not unaware, not uncaring. Pictures of His promises of renewal, restoration and redemption are all around us year after year as winter gives way to spring and life returns.
Resurrection tangibly and visibly occurs. Life erupts from barren soil as bulbs burst into flowers. Sap rises and trees explode in a myriad of green colors, replacing the darkened shades of winter.
Spring returns, promising life and bringing joy. New life flourishes. Heads pop out of eggs. Migrating species return to their thawed homelands, once again filled with food. Animals, birds, reptiles procreate . . . even as plants and trees come back to life.
Oh friends, it is true, suffering happens. Tragedy strikes. Injustice reigns in far too many places. Evil is on the rampage across our planet. The darkness in way too may lives is real. Hope seems impossible.
But hope cannot be completely extinguished by life. For God indeed does live. Our Redeemer defeated death, and in so doing experienced our suffering. God does understand our pain. In the end, God wins on our behalf. And not merely in the amazing victory that will be ours in eternity – new bodies, healed hearts and wholeness.
Our God wins as provision is made for those who find themselves clinched in the jaws of suffering. God carries the weak as they step toward Him in blind faith. God inexplicably empowers those imprisoned, tortured or martyred for their faith. God heals, and God sustains when healing doesn’t come. God brings peace to ravaged souls.
God opens eyes to see that which is not visible. Unlocks hearts to believe the mystery that cannot be explained. Unseals spiritual ears and helps us to hear and find help in the words of Scripture . . . come unto me all you who are weary and full of burdens. Come to me and rest . . . let me carry your burdens. Believe that I, the Holy One of Israel, am with you. You can know the fullness of my presence (in all your days.) I will not forsake or leave you alone. I will strengthen you for the journey ahead. I will walk alongside you and be your rear guard. I promise that nothing, absolutely nothing in this life, can ever separate you from my love. And one day, the groans of your suffering will be replaced with shouts of joy.
A grave was opened. A body raised. A life reborn. Death defeated by a Savior who reigns. A Redeemer who can resurrect us from any pit we find ourselves in, illumine any darkness that shrouds our souls.
Jesus, be our strength. Help us to love and serve you no matter our lot in life. Help us to be ever grateful for your grace and mercy. Help us learn to give you thanks – maybe not for, but ‘in’ all things – to praise you for who you are.
Oh God, be our strength for the living of all our days . . . and may we be found yearning to dance in the spring that surely will come.