Yesterday was Easter – what many consider the most significant day of the year in the Christian faith. Perhaps you experienced a glorious Easter, filled with beautiful worship, family time, laughter, and traditions. Or maybe your happiness was subdued this year by grief, loss, or loneliness. In either situation, we can choose to cling to the joy of Christ’s resurrection, which pervades all circumstances, and find great hope in relationship with a real Savior, who humbled himself to an extent to be able to truly relate to both the mountaintops and valleys of this world.
For our family, this Easter weekend was a beautiful, memorable time, with many awesome reminders of Jesus’ sacrifice and celebrations of His resurrection. The older I get, the more I try to live in, treasure, and soak up moments like this – knowing from past experience that each day is a gift, with the good times graciously sprinkled across difficult times of pain and suffering. Having come to faith in Christ as a child and growing up in the church, the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is very familiar, though sacred, to me. Once again this year, in the days leading up to Easter, I prayed that the Lord would reveal to me a fresh perspective on the Easter story, and He did.
In one of the services we attended, the preacher focused on the element of fear at the scene of the Resurrection, and in another service, the theme was how the resurrection changes everything. As the women approached Jesus’ tomb to anoint His body, they were surprised to see an angel, who commanded them to not be afraid, and explained that Jesus had risen from the dead and could be found in Galilee (Matthew 28:5-7). “So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly, Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me'” (Matthew 28: 8-10). This same series of emotions mirrors the Christmas story, when the shepherds encountered the angels in the field where they worked, afraid – then sent to the experience the newborn King firsthand and go tell of the Savior’s birth.
Do you see a pattern?
- Experiencing Jesus
- Emotions of fear/awe/joy
- Obedience – go/tell/do
When we truly experience Jesus, we can’t help but be changed. It’s a natural overflow of encountering the love and power of the God of the universe. Fear is also a natural, inevitable part of that experience – that we, as flawed, sinful men/women might even be allowed to enter into the presence of a Holy God, much less be invited to participate in His work, is mind-blowing. We have two choices in reaction to these feelings of fear: 1. Focus on the fear, and allow it to paralyze us, or 2. Trust God through our fear, as we step forward in obedience.
A few months ago, I found myself awake in the middle of the night, struggling with a bad sickness and pondering a decision with big implications. I came across a video of Jill Briscoe, a missionary in her eighties, and the Lord used her passionate message to speak straight to my heart and situation. The part of her story that stuck out to me was her wisdom on fear and faith. In essence, fear precedes obedience, and obedience precedes courage. We first obey what the Lord is calling us to do; then, the courage will follow. The Lord delivers courage as a result of our faith. This principle is evident throughout the Bible, and in the testimonies of countless believers since.
“Courage isn’t a feeling that
you wait for. Courage is doing when you don’t have courage. Courage is
doing it scared.” – Jill Briscoe
So, what do we do on the day after Easter?
We allow the Truth of the gospel message to penetrate our hearts. We humble ourselves before the Lord and listen intently to what He is calling us to do. We feel the fear, and walk forward in faithful obedience to follow Him anyway, often in defiance of our personal comfort zone or conception of logic, knowing His path is better than anything promised by this world. As Briscoe said it best, “you go where you’re sent, and you stay where you’re put, and you give what you’ve got until you’re done.” Oh, for grace to trust Him more!