When I was a kid, I remember reading a book about Antarctic explorers. These intrepid explorers lived and sometimes died in a frozen wasteland. I was reading this book over the Summer, and I remember feeling acutely the cognitive dissonance between a sweltering, humid summer and the descriptions of the dry, cold land I was reading about.
I find that in some ways it can be a similar experience to think about the resurrection. Right now, I sit in my comfortable suburban home in Cary, North Carolina, with enough food to comfortably last over a week, a job that’s not in any imminent jeopardy, a wife I love dearly, and two cats who keep my life interesting. Even doing the hard work of confronting the bad behaviors in my life and learning to say no where years or sometimes decades of conditioning have taught me to say yes (or vice-versa) reaps a harvest of plenty that even non-believers can see and acknowledge. The greatest tragedy in my life at the moment is that because of isolation we are not able to have Easter dinner with my wife’s family, as per tradition.
But also, people are dying. Over one hundred thousand people have died worldwide as a result of COVID-19, and the toll continues to mount. That’s not even considering the deaths which happen every day as a matter of course. Or those whose circumstances are such that death does not seem like such a tragedy to them.
After Summer came Fall, then Winter. Young Nathan remembered what it was like to be cold. Still a far cry from the bitter, omnipresent, bone-chilling cold of the Antarctic, of course. And whether a great tragedy or a small, some pain will find its way into my life. I will remember what it’s like to be cold again. The same cold that many are feeling right now.
The resurrection gives hope. And it also gives an answer. The prophet Habakkuk asked some hard questions of God:
How long, O Lord, must I call for help?Habakkuk 1:2-3
But you do not listen!
“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,
but you do not come to save.
Must I forever see these evil deeds?
Why must I watch all this misery?
God was not offended by this question, even though it was asked in what seems like a fairly offensive way. Rather, God entered into a dialogue with the prophet. He responded with a promise: that in the end, he will make all things right. The evil will be repaid for their evil deeds, while the righteous will be lifted up. At the end of this conversation, Habakkuk came to this conclusion:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,Habakkuk 3:17-18
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
What a transformation, from the beginning of this short book to the end!
The prophet Habakkuk did not live long enough to see Jesus; he missed by a few hundred years. But Jesus’s resurrection is the answer that the prophet was looking for. The proof of the promise.
Whether you look around and you see nothing but pain or you feel pretty comfortable and happy where you are, you have access to this promise. The promise that one day, God will raise us as he raised his son. And that all wrongs will be righted.
Even if my life ceases to be comfortable — whether now in this time of pandemic or in the future due to some other misfortune — I will instruct my soul to rejoice! He is risen; all else is insignificant beside that one glorious fact. He is risen!