“I took this picture as cars filled up the parking lot for a drive-in church service on Easter morning.”
A guest blog from Caleb Horjus, Youth Ministry Intern at Bauer Christian Reformed Church.
Easter this year was a bit different, wasn’t it? I’m not sure what your church experience was like Easter morning, but mine was a drive-in church service. On Easter Sunday morning, our church’s parking lot was packed with cars. We all remained in our cars while the praise team and pastor did their work on a stage (a trailer and scaffold). The sound guy cast the service through an FM transmitter so that we could all listen in our cars to practice social distancing. I had never experienced anything like it before, but as many of us have found out, pandemics can change the way we do things. Yet, this church service was one of the greatest experiences of my life in the church. Our pastor proclaimed the good news of the gospel, many people in the parking lot rolled down their windows to raise their hands in worship and car horns substituted for Amens. I know this may not sound too crazy to many of you, but to me, it was a beautiful thing. People were doing all they could while following social distancing guidelines to praise God. From talking with a few of my peers, I heard of many stories from this Easter morning that shared that beauty.
What caused this difference? What made this Easter morning maybe more beautiful than any we had experienced before? The obvious answer would be the global pandemic that we are facing. However, I would ask that we look deeper.
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” – Romans 5:3-4
I believe the difference was made by the hope that is residing in all of us right now. The world is suffering right now, and in the midst of suffering there is always hope. It is because suffering produces hope. Although, hope is meaningless and empty without anything to put hope in. Therefore, it becomes key as to what our hope is in.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” – Psalm 42:11
The psalmist is clearly in a time of suffering as he writes these words yet, he says he will hope in God. What does it mean to hope in God? The Hebrew word for hope in this verse is yachal. The primary definition of yachal is “to wait.” Yet, another may define yachal as “to trust.” So, the psalmist is waiting and trusting God to deliver him from suffering.
I feel as if that is the request of so many of us right now. Many of us are longing for a return to our normal lives. So many of us have lost so many things due to the coronavirus, whether that be people who have died due to the virus, a business that is struggling due to not being able to work, or the college senior, high school senior, or 8th grade graduates who have lost their “lasts.” No matter how great or how small, all of us are suffering. Although I certainly believe that we should rejoice while suffering, that is not what I am going to ask us to do. What I am asking us to do is to lament these losses. I want each of us to process this and lament over the things we have lost, and when we lament don’t feel guilty that you are lamenting. It is completely normal and biblical to lament. There is a whole book in the Bible called Lamentations! Yet, there is something we should realize while lamenting.
“The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:24
During your lament, realize that God is all that you need. God is completely sufficient for you. When you have God, you lack nothing. Since God is all we need, we put our hope in him. The word for hope in Lamentations 3:24 is also yachal. In your lament, wait and trust in God to deliver you from the suffering that we are all enduring right now. Until the unknown day when coronavirus ends, or if the Lord would call you home before then, wait and trust in him.
This is the good news of the gospel, that Jesus Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life, was nailed to a cross to pay for our transgressions so that we can spend eternity with God in heaven. God reached down to us while we were dead in our sins. We were physically unable to draw ourselves closer to the Lord, so he did it for us. Through the work of Jesus, we are called into a relationship with God. In this relationship with God, we form into the likeness of Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” -Galatians 2:20
What great news this is! We have been delivered already from the penalty of our sin! Praise God for all the things he has done for us! Therefore, while we hope in God, trusting in his deliverance, run to him. Run to him in moments of silence and solitude where you rest in his sovereign control over our suffering. Run to him as he has revealed himself through his Word. Develop new habits that form you into the likeness of Christ. This is when our lament is turned to joy!
“To me, suffering seems now a sacramental thing, that makes those whom it touches holy.” -Oscar Wilde
Our suffering is a gift of God’s divine grace in our lives. So many of us were running like chickens with our heads cut off before the coronavirus pandemic broke out. This season has allowed many to slow down and focus on the things that matter. Perhaps the whole reason God allowed the pandemic to break out was so his people would realize their desperate need for him and run to him. We have become so self-sufficient in America that we practically have pushed God out of our lives. God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives. He wants us to run to Him when things are good, he wants us to run to Him when things are bad, he just wants us. I hope that in our time spent with God over the next couple of days, weeks, months, or for however long the pandemic lasts, that we would pray these moments spent with God would not be forgotten when we return to normal life. If we return to normal life and forget to spend time with God altogether as we did in this season, then we have learned nothing.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” -Psalm 46:10
God is calling us to himself, do we recognize this call? If we do recognize the call, will we answer it?
I believe this is the beauty I experienced Easter morning. The suffering people of God have seen their great need for the Lord on full display. From what I gathered; this wasn’t just an experience simply at my church either. God is calling all his people to hope in him and to draw near to him. Jesus is the risen Lord and we put all our hope for salvation in him alone. Amid this suffering let us run to him and then when this season has passed, let us still run to him first and always. As you are running to him, look for those around you who also need God. There are people in this world who don’t believe in God, they must truly be at a loss at this time. Christians have God to run to, but who do they have? I pray that these people would come to find God in this time of suffering. Will you join me in this prayer and action of bringing people to God? Put your hope in God, then wait and trust in the Lord during this time of suffering, become fully dependent on him and he will give you rest. This is the hope that Easter brings to the world, that Christ defeated sin and death forever. Wait, hope, and trust in the Lord until that wonderful day when he comes again. Amen.
More from Caleb Horjus at awayfromtheeast.wordpress.com/