By Sabrina McDonald
The Bradford pear trees are blooming. Daffodils are peaking out in bright yellow. I see buds sprouting on trees and bushes everywhere. Spring is taking over winter, and it’s like the flowers are shouting out in all their glory, “I’m alive again!” Finally the death of winter is ending and the whole creation is experiencing resurrection. It’s a physical tangible example of the promise God has made to His people that we too will experienced new life—the perfect setting for the Easter holiday.
Most of my life I took Easter for granted. I was certainly grateful for Jesus’ resurrection, but the power of overcoming death didn’t really reach my heart until my first husband, David, died in a car accident three years ago. After he passed away it felt like death was all around me. People told me story after story of other young men and women who had died unexpectedly. I felt completely out of control, as if accidental death was around every corner. I became preoccupied with the thought of dying, having panic attacks and experiencing symptoms of life threatening illnesses all the time. I lived in looming fear that something would happen to me, especially with my children being just babies.
That first Easter following David’s death was like a washing baptismal rain, pouring down as a spring shower over my spirit. The combination of watching the beginnings of spring life peeking through and the powerful reminder of Jesus’ resurrection sprouted in me a renewed hope. I drank in its beauty and promise, tears streaming down my face all day long.
It was at the resurrection of Lazarus that Jesus declared these words to a mournful Martha:
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” And I would read her reply as a declaration of my own soul, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that you are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” (John 11:25-27).
In His statement, Jesus doesn’t mince words. He doesn’t speak in mysterious parables in this mournful setting. When I read Jesus’ conversation with Martha, I hear a serious compassion in his voice. I hear Him speaking directly and authoritatively, as if He is saying, “Listen to me. I’m going to make this plain because I know your emotions are raw, and it’s so hard for mere humans to see past the permanence of death, but believe me when I say, Death has been conquered.”
Try explaining to a 2-year-old why his Daddy is never coming back. It’s such a difficult concept to understand that I continue to have this conversation with my 5-year-old son even now, three years later. There are still days when it hits me that David really died. He didn’t leave us. He isn’t on a trip or lost on an island. No matter how hard I tried at the time to fix it, no matter how much I wished his return, there was no way for me to bring him back to life. But Jesus walked to the tomb of Lazarus and called him out, and Lazarus came.
As impressive as the story of Lazarus is, the resurrection of Jesus far surpasses even such magnificence. It’s one thing to come out of a grave when someone calls you. It’s quite another to rise up from the dead according to the sheer power of the Holy Spirit alone! The Bible says that death could not keep Jesus in its grip (Acts 2:24). When we are called by God from our resting place, we too will awaken perfect and complete, just as our Savior, the first-born of the Spirit.
I don’t understand the workings of life after death. What will we look like? Where is heaven? How long does it take to get there? Will we remember this life? Will we see people on earth? There are so many questions, but I love the way Job describes his future state of being when he joins the Lord, “Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God.” (19:26).
I just love knowing that things in heaven don’t work the way they do on earth! I don’t have to understand it. The heavenly world works on a whole new set of physiological laws. There is so much I can’t know until I can see with spiritual eyes. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 explains, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall I know even as also I am known.”
But I do know that I will never die. I know that David is not really dead, but in Heaven. I know that in some future time, hopefully soon, the trumpet will sound and all the dead in Christ will rise! And I know that anyone who believes in Jesus will enjoy the same benefits, just as He declared to Martha.
Having experienced the repercussions and aftermath of death, and living under such great fear of its looming inescapable presence, Easter has become to me a yearly praise offering poured out in the form of tears and singing and maybe a little dancing birthed out of hope, the only hope there is.
About the Author:
Sabrina McDonald is the author of the devotional book for women Open the Windows of Heaven, and a former senior writer and web editor for FamilyLife, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Over the years she has written of her engagement, wedding, and marriage to David Beasley, her experiences as a mother, her adjustment to widowhood in 2010, and her re-marriage in 2013 to Robbie McDonald.