I wanted a different life story. The vindication story. The one where God shows up, makes me victorious and I get to move on celebrating. The one where the miracle happens and I no longer feel forsaken. The one where I wasn’t left holding the short straw.
Maybe the days just before Easter are an excellent time to process this. I’m not the only one to have my story take an unexpected (and unwanted) turn.
Once upon a time I thought, if I did the right things, if I had enough faith, the biological children story would happen. I tried to earn God’s favor or viewed the lack of God’s intervention as punishment for my failings. And like worldviews tend to function, it was subtle, simmering just below consciousness — an unspoken (and unacknowledged) assumption.
This is a broken worldview, by the way. Pervasive, but toxic for my relationship with God. God was baffling when He didn’t respond according to my equation. Being anxious about God’s punishment made me distance myself from God for fear that who I am, in spite of my best efforts, will never be enough for Him. Somehow God’s grace no longer seemed enough for me. Perhaps most importantly, that worldview made it hard to see God present with me when I struggled.
Yes, God disciplines. Yes, there are scary stories I don’t quite understand in the Bible.
And yet, this Easter weekend, I hope you and I know deep down in our gut how much God cherishes us, how God is with us as we struggle with the twists and turns our lives take.
God loves you and I deeply. God meets us in our weakness and broken places. He didn’t wait for us to perfect ourselves before He loved us. We don’t achieve it or earn it.
Rather than earning God’s work in my life (not really possible anyway) or anxiously judging my failings (not helpful either), this Easter weekend I find comfort with Jesus, who suffered.
As I read Matthew’s passion narrative this week, I found solidarity with Jesus. A sense that God gets this struggle and is saddened, even if God doesn’t respond the way I wanted.
In the garden, Jesus wrestles with the dread of the suffering to come. Matthew notes Jesus praying variations of the same thing three times, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Mt 26:39, 42, 44).”
And I struggle so hard with these words.
What I hate about these words is the way they’re sometimes twisted to glorify suffering as holiness or to passively accept injustice and oppression as God’s will. I resent the words when they’re directed at me or at others. That feels like a troubling use of the words.
At the same time, I want to emulate them in my life. God, I didn’t want this for my story. Please help me trust You anyway. Even if this road is difficult for me, I will trust that You can bring something profoundly meaningful from it. At least this way, the struggle isn’t a total waste.
I don’t believe God handed me the lemons of infertility. However, I am confident God is the very best at baking lemon meringue pie with those same sour lemons.
For me, that’s part of the profound beauty of Easter. That even in death, in utter darkness and shattered hopes, God can resurrect something incredible. Perhaps it’s not the dream we wanted. But, still, seeds of life beautifully spring up in our stories.
God is still God, still faithful — even as we, at times, stand in moments where everything seemed lost. Easter Saturday commemorates the time between Jesus’ death and resurrection. Hopes seemed lost. Expectations the disciples had were shattered, and they scattered. All they could do was wait and wonder. Would Jesus rise? Were the last few years a waste?
Even the darkness cannot stifle God. Then breaking forth, in glorious day, life shows up from nowhere, shocks us as it catches us unaware.
The stone rolled away. The tomb was empty. Jesus is alive. Amen.