The infection rate of COVID-19 appears to be decreasing, but the impacts are far from being over. The long-haul effects are just beginning to be realized. Grief over the ones we lost continues. The invasion of Ukraine has set the world back on its heel, and it is not clear what will happen next.
These events are occurring as those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers are still in a 40-day journey we call Lent. During this time, we are intentional about examining the darkness and shadows in ourselves and all of humanity. We admit our complicity in much of what is not right with the world, our nation, communities, and even our families. It is difficult but necessary work. Tears and weeping are not uncommon.
Yet, part of what this journey is about is to recall that God loved us so very much that the only way left to show us was to come among us as one of us, to move into the neighborhood and share true life with us. We remember the extreme example of love he demonstrated to all the world by his teaching, his association with the lost, the least, and the alone, and his willingness to give all that he had that we might have life and have it abundantly.
We draw comfort by recognizing Jesus also experienced despair and hope, hostility and hospitality, and loneliness and community. From this, we have come to realize that it should not come as a surprise that we, too, often find ourselves immersed in the same whirls and tensions.
Yet we also become more aware of how God has reached out to us and touched us, even amid our struggles, providing us with a source of strength and encouragement.
As our journey continues, we will hear how the world screamed “no” to this radical expression of love and attempted to end it all with a death on a cross. But God responded with a “yes” and an empty grave.
The empty grave changes everything. It replaces brokenness with healing, emptiness with purpose, turmoil with peace, guilt with forgiveness, despair with hope, and eternal death with eternal life. It replaces even the deepest tears with a joy that knows no limit.
This ultimate victory of Christ over even death provides you and me with the courage and confidence necessary to endure the nights of weeping so that we might also experience the joy that will come in the morning.
Pete Berntson is the pastor of Church of the Palms United Methodist Church in Okatie.