When Easter feels joyless

The celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday is the high point of the year for Christians.

It is the single historical event on which the entirety of Christian hope rests – it gives meaning to the crucifixion that would otherwise be simply a tragic martyrdom, and it demonstrates to the Christian that God has overcome sin and death for our sake.

But of course for a variety of reasons Easter is not always filled with joy for many of us.

Be it an association with the loss of a loved one or a reminder that for whatever reason we just don’t feel hope like we think we’re supposed to, Easter can be depressing.

Dating back to very early childhood, I remember just an ill feeling come this time of year that seems inexplicable. Springtime and particularly Easter have just always been down emotional times for me for some reason.

I feel it especially this Easter.

I seem to be almost bipolar in the way I experience depravity. Most of the time I have difficulty feeling all that “bad” for the sins I typically struggle with because they don’t seem like the big of a deal to me. Consequently I think I minimize the feeling of gratitude and grace that so many Christians seem to be enamored with.

But on rare occasions I am blindsided by what feels like the metric tonage of my sinfulness. And it is in such a place I find myself now.

How does one come to peace with knowing they have wronged others in ways they can never repair?

It feels like it’s one thing to accept forgiveness from God when we don’t deserve it and another to accept it from other human beings.

At least it feels that way to me. Maybe it’s because I think God is, well, God, so if anyone is built to take a sucker punch to the heart, it’s him…that all powerful, all knowing bit should help cushion the blow, I justify to myself.

But people…well, we aren’t like that. We get blindsided. We get situations that are too big for us. We get more pain than we can healthily bare.

And when I am a contributor or direct cause of that…how can I forgive myself? Knowing what I did was completely not OK and that I can’t make it better…how can Easter help with that?

Easter is in part the realization that our best is never enough. Whether we recognize it or not, each of us is complicit in pain and evil at some level that can we can not fix.

It is also true that we do good; more good than we are often aware of. Yet, is it even possible for the good we do to outweigh the bad? Can our bad outweigh our good? How is it even possible to measure such things?

It isn’t.

People who can’t help but make mistakes can’t possibly comprehend what true justice would be.

This is one of the main hopes of the promise of the resurrection: that God himself makes up our differences.

That I can’t possibly make right that which I’ve made wrong. I can do what I can, but it still won’t be enough.

But God restores dead things. Where there is no hope, he injects life into the corpses I have left in my wake.

It doesn’t always happen in this lifetime, though sometimes some glimpses of grace sneak through.

It doesn’t mean I won’t be held accountable in the end, though somehow I also won’t be excluded. It’s a mystery.

And it’s a risk to believe. A risk that this hope isn’t real. That it’s a fools’ hope.

I like to think this is in part the strain Jesus felt heading to the cross. Our orthodox Christian theology teaches the dual nature of Christ, that he is both fully God and fully man.

Typically when we ponder what Jesus’ thought about himself we assume as fully God he knew everything that would happen to him in advance.

I’m not so sure that would make him fully man, though. To be man is to not know with certainty what will happen next.

Jesus was a prophet, so he had insight into certain future events. He was intimate with the Father, so he had a good sense of what his will was and the ability for miracles to flow through him. He was at one point transfigured and knew that he was the Messiah, the Son of Man. He knew his calling was to embody Israel in ways that only the Father rightly could, in a way that could only be understood as an act of divinity.

But as N.T. Wright suggests, if he was fully man, would he have ever known with complete certainty and fulness exactly who he was and that the path he had chosen was in fact the path he was supposed to take?

If he was fully man, the cross came at a risk for Jesus: maybe he was wrong. Maybe he misunderstood the Father. Maybe this was not the path he was supposed to take. Maybe it was a tragic mistake.

Even as whatever mystically began to transpire in Gethsemane bore down on him, in some way doubt had to plague him. All this – the giving away of his life in brutal pain and tragedy at such a young age – could be complete and utter folly.

But he trusted his relationship with the Father. He trusted the Scriptures. He trusted the signs and visions that guided him that far.

He gave his life for hope. Hope that the Father would make things right.

And if the resurrection did historically happen, that hope was vindicated. Hope won.

My only hope is that I can be grafted into Jesus’ hope. That my God took a chance, and I can take one with him.

That I can point to Jesus and beg of others, especially those I have wronged, “Please. Please. Go to Him with everything I’ve done to you. With everything life has done to you. Put your hope in him not only for your future but for your today. I have failed you and am powerless to fix anything, but he can.

“Go to him in his church, where he is present in his people who can help to heal the pains. Where Jesus can be seen in the eyes of those who are devoted to him, where his miracles can and do still happen.

“Please. He is the way, and his way is the cross. Death to what we cling to in order to be filled with him. Not a vacuum without life, but a space within us that he is to fill.

“It’s all I have to give, and it’s only a finger pointing the way. It’s the hope of Easter, where that which was dead is given new life.

“I need that new life more than anyone. That healing like water in a dry land.”

I trust you, God, to heal the wounds I have caused and likely will cause more of. I’m so sorry. I’m so incredibly sorry.

Please make Easter real to us all.

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