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One of the instructive things about Easter Sunday, which I do not intend to take away from the day in any way, is how similar it is to every other day of the Christian experience. Undoubtedly, the Easter season gives us an appropriate “emotional bump,” but honestly, this season is like looking at a field full of beautiful flowers, noticing one standing a petal or two higher than the rest.
This perspective is not a new reflective thought for me but part of my ongoing awareness of what it is like to experience the resurrection’s goodness every day of my life. Easter Sunday is not the resurrection but a subjective date on the calendar that we chose to celebrate that historical event. Easter Sunday is more about a reminder of how the resurrection should be the driving theme of our waking hours.
Like communion, we are not eating His body or drinking His blood but reminding ourselves of His death. These critical reminders help us to have a more transformative experience with God (Hebrews 3:7). Easter reminds me of what my daughter said when she was five years old. She nailed it.
Daddy, every day with God is full of surprises. —Tristen
Her remark was one of those things children say that you want to keep in your “quote worth re-quoting memory bank.” I kept that one. Sometimes the simplicity of “kid-speak” can hit the nail on the head in such a way that their words become transcendent truth you never want to forget. C. S. Lewis was getting at this “full of surprises” notion in his Narnia books where he talked about it always being winter and never Christmas.
Then, Aslan made his move, and winter was no more. Every day of the Christian life should be Christmas, not winter, but that is not always how it goes for God’s redeemed. I have had long, extended winters of the soul where there were no other seasons to anticipate or enjoy. Days of formidable darkness as I stood on the edge of time, staring into nothingness.
Those were sad moments spent pondering tomorrow while knowing tomorrow would be more of the same. Personal suffering is like a prisoner imprisoned without bars (Hebrews 13:3)—or a windowless room. You may look and act like everyone else, but you know it’s not true as you isolate yourself in your private prison.
When the heavy hand of disappointment presses down on your soul, it is all you can do to crawl along into the next day, which looks the same as the last day. That is how it was for me for over nine years. I shuffled through the crucible of suffering, eventually coming out on the other end, never to be the same again.
During those sad days of my eternal winter, the Lord was rehabbing my soul by introducing me to the other side of the Son of God. I knew and appreciated the “saving Jesus,” but I did not understand or appreciate the “suffering of Jesus.” That other side of Jesus never comes into full view until you walk with Him for a while. I never saw “that Jesus” coming my way.
Salvation was great, but suffering was an unwanted antagonist to my soul. It never occurred to me that the Lord had two gifts under Adam’s tree. Paul said it this way: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). After Peter came out of his crucible, he began to write about this unwanted second blessing. He said,
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
I wanted the best parts of Jesus, not the dark side that smelled of death. It was the consideration of the other side of the Son of Man that compelled me to draw back and shrink from my call to suffer. Imitating Jesus through suffering put me at a crossroads. What will it be? My will or His (Luke 22:42)?
Even though I knew God loved me because I chose to place my confidence in His redemptive work alone, it began to dawn on me that the paraphernalia required to walk with God was a cross. (See Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) Peter warned us not to think it strange when life dials up the fires of trying times (1 Peter 4:12; Daniel 3:19).
Whatever is happening to you is happening because you told the Lord that you wanted to follow the Son, hoping that He would transform you into His image. The entry point for Christlikeness is salvation, but the process of working out that salvation (Philippians 2:12-13) is suffering. We call it progressive sanctification, but a more fitting descriptor may be a process of progressively dying until the Lord conforms you into Christlikeness (Philippians 3:10).
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him (1 John 3:1).
God’s “manner of love” is more surgical than you ever imagined. He knows every thought and intention of your heart (Hebrews 4:13), and there is no stoppage to His searching, probing, magnifying, and examining every microscopic inch of our “naked souls” to make us like His Son. That kind of love is what we signed up for at salvation.
The more effectively you appropriate the death of Christ into your life, the more effectively you’ll be able to enjoy a resurrection kind of Sunday every day of the year. You’ll know the degree to which you have applied the death of Christ to your life by the level of gratitude you have for all the people and all the events the good Lord writes into your narrative (Genesis 50:20).
Paul said straightforwardly, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (See 1 Thessalonians 5:19). Gratitude is one of the quickest and most effective tests of your Christian maturity. It is the will of God for you, and it is the litmus test that lets you know which mile marker you are at on the road of progressing suffering (sanctification).
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