Hope after death, and the freedom to walk through it

Jesus and LazarusMy florist calls me around this time this year to ask if I need palms for Palm Sunday. I love the phone call in the middle of the Lenten desert season because it is a reminder that Jesus is coming, that He will triumphantly enter our city, and liberate us from death. We have our own plans for celebrating His entrance into the city and His own death walk this year, check it out at: circleofhope.net/holyweek.

Anyway, I’m feeling the need for the hope of resurrection, life, and the conquest of death this year. Many close people to me have lost people to death, mostly unexpectedly. There are people in my life who have never experienced death, and so I’ve been thinking about how to talk about it. There are the cold hard facts of death that everyone needs to know. But then there is life and hope beyond the grave, too. For me, the story of Jesus, His birth, life, and resurrection are elemental to talking about death.

Jesus does not find death to be liberating. It does not set the soul free. It is an enemy to be defeated. Experiencing death is “devastating,” as my friend recently said. It’s heart-breaking. I’m so grateful that Jesus thought so too. Even with the power to resurrect Lazarus, Jesus still mourns his friend’s death. He still weeps. He still feels. The miracle that He was about to perform in John 11, the one that would alert the Jewish and Roman authorities of His power, His identity, and who He truly was, was not enough to hold Him from feeling the pain of death. That suffering is inescapable in our world. Death brings it up. And we have lots of ways to cope with it. The marketers and the advertisers are selling us ways to cover up that pain, to disguise it, to mask it for a short period of time. Capitalism’s goal is to convince you of your despair enough to use your credit card to try to cover it up. Maybe you’re trying to do that with a relationship, with children, with a new job, with a Netflix binge, or some other abuse.

Lent is about releasing those coping mechanisms and being willing to feel the pain a little more acutely. For me, this Lent is particularly dark with all the death that surrounds me.  I’m waiting for resurrection, and the only way is through some pain, suffering, and even death.

Without Jesus, death truly is the end. With Him, there is hope. But that hope doesn’t mean we don’t hurt in the here and now. So go ahead and feel the pain you need to feel. Don’t try to escape it with some ecstasy (religious or chemical). Especially during the season of Lent, suffer with those who suffer. Jesus suffered, and our consciousness of His suffering can help us know He relates to ours.

My recommendation is through your pain to find some comrades who can suffer alongside of you. In the darkness of the desert of Lent, commune with others, journey with them, relate to them. Circle of Hope is definitely an expression of and an opportunity for such community. See if some vulnerability, mutual prayer, and support in one of our cells won’t give you a glimmer of hope and resurrection despite the fast, despite the difficult of your life.

Perhaps the community of your cell will wake you up to your own pain, the kind of pain that you’ve been covering up, unable to bear on your own. In a cell, you have the freedom to feel, the freedom to mourn, the chance to be known, and to be embraced. It is a little piece of resurrection every week. God be with you as you keep journeying, even through death.

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