“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24, NIV)
The world in which we live is so far from what the Lord Almighty originally intended. It is sin-sick and imperfect. Evil abounds and shakes the earth beneath our feet. We can feel as if we’ve been hurled into a canyon, which a moment earlier was no where in sight. This has become much more evident to me as I’ve recently begun working several hours a week at Moses Cone Behavioral Health Center as a PRN (“as needed”) counselor. Here I often witness people and situations that appear to be beyond hope.
I again find myself asking God, “Why do we have to suffer so? Why is life so difficult with such pain and loss?” It’s a bit ironic that I completed a master’s degree in counseling, have been licensed by the state of North Carolina, and by now have several years experience behind me. Yet I still find myself without adequate words, much less sufficient answers, for these deep heart questions. So, if counseling programs, training, and credentials don’t offer answers, where can we go to find meaning in our suffering? Where can we grasp just a glimmer of hope? The only place that can bear the weight of our pain and suffering caused from living in such a messed up world is the Cross of Christ. This is the only true hope we have, as we embrace what often has been called an “Easter faith.” Unfortunately, this faith we hold to does not always offer answers to our present sufferings, but what it does offer is so much more—a risen Lord and a resurrected life!
In our humanity, we believe that it is only in life where there is hope. However, God’ economy is much different. One Friday afternoon, some 2,000 years ago, there seemed to be only darkness and death. Yet on that day, death alone brought glorious hope. Oddly enough, now for those of us who are in Christ, our greatest hope lies beyond death.
We know that life is filled with not only physical death, but various types of “death”—those losses which produce grief just as deep and painful. The death of a beloved relationship, a life-long career or dream, our health, or even a sound mind given over to mental illness. However, when one of these deaths comes, we have a unique opportunity to take it to the Cross. We remain nearby, suffering its grief. It is here that we will also experience the resurrection. Christ said that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (John 12:24). If a part of you has died, it is meant to produce many seeds…in time. Do you believe that? Will you allow it? Will you cooperate long enough to see tender shoots come forth from the barren ground?
I know that, for many, suffering could likely continue until that day when we see Jesus face to face. For example, unless God chooses to perform a miracle and divinely heal a young man I recently spoke with at the hospital, he will always suffer from the torment of schizophrenia. But that does not mean he is without hope. As I completed an intake assessment with him in which he revealed his faith in Christ, I told him that I would be praying for him. He looked me in the eyes and asked, “Will you pray for me now?” I cannot describe the feeling in my heart as the Lord allowed me to pray for this man, affirming the truth that, perhaps not in this present day but one day very soon, this young man will no longer hear voices or see visions that torment his soul. His mind will be made whole and he will walk a resurrected life forever.
Friends, Christ did not come to earth and suffer so that we would be exempt from pain and suffering. No, He came to offer us a way through it. And He invites us to follow. We follow Him into the pain and grief. And though it may feel like we’ll remain there forever, we hold to the hope that one day, we will experience that glorious Sunday morning when God brings forth resurrection life. The angels will roll away the final stone. The Sovereign Lord will wipe every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more pain and suffering.
I realize we’ve just passed through this year’s “Easter season,” but what I want to suggest is that although our culture only sets apart one weekend in which to celebrate, this is a season that we should delight to celebrate in daily. I pray that every day will be Easter day as you are filled with the joy and hope of resurrection life!