by Joanie Butman
Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters Tournament on Palm Sunday was his first major championship in 11 years. Forget schadenfreude. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? Especially after such a dramatic, public fall from grace. Isn’t that what Easter is all about? The celebrations may be over, but God’s redemption plan is still unfolding. Nature is announcing it all around us as spring bursts forth out of the dead of winter. Christ was resurrected once (the true Master’s victory), but blessedly we can experience the same miracle again and again. That’s the joy of Easter. His resurrection power is a gift that we, as believers, can appropriate and celebrate every day.
I’ve got more lives than the proverbial cat though I land on my knees more than on my feet, which is exactly where God wants me. Only then can Christ reach down and lift me up out of whatever muck I’ve landed in. This process is organic. Every time I think I’ve completely surrendered to Christ, He reveals something else I need to crucify. Dying to self is ongoing because my selfishness keeps rearing its ugly head – one step forward, two steps back. Richard Rohr encourages us when he says, “Death and life are two sides of the same coin; you cannot have one without the other Each time you surrender, each time you trust the dying, your faith is led to a deeper level and you discover a larger self underneath.”
Everyone has their own history of resurrection stories – times when God redeemed your suffering and restored your life, dreams, marriage, family relationships, career, etc. Nothing is beyond the restorative power of Christ. Our suffering may be a consequence of a mistake we made, or the result of something done to us, or simply the result of living in an imperfect world. Regardless, God can take anything we offer Him and use it for His purposes, refining us in the process and creating something new.
One of the hardest biblical truths for me to grasp is that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in me. Even though intellectually I know that statement is scripturally sound, there are moments in life when the pain or hopelessness seems more than anyone can bear. This experience is often referred to as the dark night of the soul, the gift of desperation or in this generation’s peculiar vernacular: sitting in the suck.
Did you ever wonder why Jesus didn’t rise Friday night or Saturday? Some would answer it was to fulfill Scripture. True, but God authored Scripture so the timing was always part of His redemption plan. Could it be that we are meant to sit with the pain? That we need to fully accept and surrender to the suffering in order to experience the joy of the resurrection. To endure the “in between” – the time after He died but before He rose. It’s a time defined by uncertainty, loss, and utter despair. Think of what the apostles were doing during that time – hiding, afraid for their lives, their hopes and dreams for a new order shattered. I believe most of our spiritual growth happens during those in-between times because it is only when we are stripped of our own power, plans, egos and agendas that we fully grasp how much we need God, how helpless we are left to our own devices. When it seems that all is lost and darkness will prevail, our only choice is whether or not to surrender it all to God.
In my experience, pain reveals who He is. More importantly, it provides an opportunity for Him to prove His faithfulness to us. It’s in our suffering that we learn to trust in His. There is a familiar saying, “Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph and a victim into a victory.” It’s not about our performance. It’s about His– always – especially in our suffering.
Easter is a joyous occasion but, like Christmas, we tend to confine it to a specific event during a limited period of time. We then return to what the church refers to as ‘ordinary time.’ As special as they are, most of life doesn’t occur in the momentous events. By the time they happen, it’s just an outward sign of the completion of a process that’s been unfolding all along. The important work has already been accomplished, and it transpired in the ordinary moments when it seemed that nothing much was taking place. From my experience, that’s when God is most active. He does His best work when it doesn’t seem like He’s doing anything. There are plenty of people who focus on all the strife in this world yet fail to see God. That’s where I see Him the clearest.
We’re living in an in-between time, waiting for Christ to come again. Yes, there is suffering everywhere you look, but there are also resurrection stories taking place at the same. It depends on what and whom you choose to focus. My prayer is that the power and hope of Easter would live in your heart long after the lilies pass away. For those who choose to believe, may the knowledge that the same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in you strengthen and encourage you, as you wait for His perfect timing in whatever situation you’re in. We’ve all got a Master’s victory of our own to pursue when we persevere against all odds to claim the prize that Christ has set before us. Augusta’s iconic green jacket is unattainable for all but a few elite golfers. However, our Master's victory provides something infinitely more valuable and lasting. Jesus is waiting to clothe anyone with a white robe of righteousness when they choose to claim His precious gift of salvation. Choose wisely!