Have you ever been at a place in your life when it seemed like all hope was lost? When it felt like there could never be joy again, that a smile would never cross your lips. Sometimes that is of our own making, a horrible decision with awful consequences, but then there are those other times. Times when life takes such a drastic unexpected turn that you never saw it coming, and have no idea what God is planning or how you could ever recover from it.
On this weekend, we pause to remember Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Do you ever consider though that these are not just stories? The names on the pages of the Bible were real people with real feelings, hopes and dreams. While we remember Friday as “Good Friday”, it most definitely did not feel “good” to the disciples, or Mary the mother of Jesus, or Mary Magdalene, or any of his other followers.
It is good to remember that the disciples were expecting Jesus to be an earthly king, they were not looking for a Savior, they didn’t even realize that was what they needed. Instead Jesus came into Jerusalem, the Triumphal Entry it is called now. The people were chanting and throwing robes and palm leaves in front of him as he rode into the city. A few short days later, the chants of “Hosanna in the Highest!” had changed to crowds screaming “Crucify him!!” The disciples went from Passover feast with Jesus, to the Garden for late night prayer, to scattered and running as Jesus was arrested. Then came the denials of Peter, the scattering of the followers, John standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother as they watched the life drain out of Him.
They knew what it was to have all hope lost. Some like Peter, were racked with guilt, others were filled with fear, but all were bewildered at the loss of dreams, hope, vision, and more. What they did not know was that the biggest victory in the story of mankind was merely hours away!
Matthew 28:1-7 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angle said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come , see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
Here was the victory that nobody expected. Jesus rose from the dead! In so doing, he completed the victory over sin and death! No longer would death have the final word. Now the path for restoration to God was complete, for all that will call on the name of Jesus, and believe that He died for our sins and rose again.
There is so much more that can be said about the victory Jesus won that day, but for right now I want to go back into the story to look at the moments before the women at the tomb and the disciples were aware of the victory.
As the women headed to the tomb that morning, they were simply planning on honoring their murdered master by anointing His body according to the traditions of the time. They were merely trying to figure our how to carry on. There are times like that in our lives, when we are so shell shocked we are just trying to carry on, just trying to make it through the day. Frequently though it is in these moments, when all seems lost, that God has a victory waiting just around the corner.
Sometimes the victory is the radical transformation of freedom from an addiction, a self-destructive lifestyle, or self-harming choices. All of these are very real problems, and when someone is in the midst of them it feels like all hope is lost.
I have walked down this road. In my own way, like Peter, I denied Jesus. Peter did it in front of a lowly servant girl, I did it with a bottle. A total loss of hope of my own making. It was while a shaking mess, going through severe alcohol withdrawal, trying to decide if life could even go on, that Jesus was there with victory. He was just waiting for me to let go of my sin, let Him give me His victory. The victory had already been paid for and won, I just didn’t know it yet.
Ephesians 2:44-9 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works so that no one may boast.
At any point in time, if you will call on the name of Jesus, you will be saved. This will bring the most important victory of all. The victory through Jesus over death is for all that are made alive in Him. However, through this victory, you have available the new life to see victory in all parts of your life.
Sometimes however, the victory that is needed is one over despair, hopelessness, or deep pain. The situation you are in might not be of your making, but you are there in pain just the same.
My wife and I have also traveled this path. We went through multiple miscarriages, ending with an emergency surgery that we were not sure if she would survive. Then came the meeting with the doctor where they told us we could not have children of our own. We were there on the path of pain, all hope seemed lost, but Jesus was there too. We now have 4 beautiful children, including a little girl with Down Syndrome, one the doctors did not think would survive her first year of life. She is now seven years old, the holes in her heart have been surgically repaired, and she is a constant source of joy in our lives. But all through these journeys have been the times of unspeakable pain. The times where hopelessness is so overwhelming you don’t even have any words to pray.
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
If you know Jesus and are one of His followers, yet still find yourself in this place of pain where all hope feels lost, and you don’t even feel qualified to pray, just call out to Jesus and tell Him all or your hurt, your pain, whatever is going through your mind, He already knows, so just talk to Him about it. Don’t worry about what to ask for, or if you are “praying in accordance with God’s will” or any other thing that will keep you from praying. See here in Romans Paul explains that when we are in this place of weakness, the Holy Spirit will intercedes for us and always intercedes according to the will of God.
If you feel like all hope is lost, turn to Jesus, trust His words, and know that in the darkest hours, God is still on the throne! You are not the first person to walk the seemingly hopeless path, all the disciples have walked down it, Jesus was there waiting for them, and He is there waiting for you too.
(photo credit: William McNeil (my dad))