Easter won’t be the same this year, it’s true: we won’t gather in our churches, and many can’t celebrate with family. Our traditions may waver, and our hearts may grow sad looking ahead to a holiday affected by the coronavirus.
But the beauty of Easter remains.
Maybe it’s even intensified by this season.
You see, the Easter story’s main point is that Jesus rose from the dead. He humbly accepted a painful, dreadful death, then conquered it, along with all of sin and evil! The story is about life coming from death. The whole world feels a need for that right now. And the more I read it, the more profound this story becomes. There are so many reasons to celebrate!
Here are a few things that have stuck out to me recently:
Jesus’ suffering was real. It’s easy to become accustomed to the phrase “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” It’s almost singsong-y, child-friendly. But when I read about what that really meant for Jesus, my heart breaks.
Jesus experienced awful anxiety as he waited for the soldiers to take him away. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he told his friends (Mt. 26:38). He asked God to take this fate away from him, if possible. It wasn’t. Once he was arrested, all his disciples deserted him and fled. Can you see the aching humanity and emotion he felt? This is not to mention the awful beatings and mockery he endured from the soldiers.
The mockery is hard for me to swallow. The soldiers slapped Jesus. Spit at him. They dressed him up as a king, did you know that? A scarlet robe, a crown made of thorns, and a staff in his hand. They bowed down in mockery, saying “Hail, king of the Jews,” only to rise and beat him with the staff. If only they’d known who he really was! The King of Creation!
Jesus submitted humbly to all of this, including a slow and agonizing death nailed to a cross. He did all of this even though he desperately didn’t want to. He acted out of obedience to God and love for us.
Jesus defeated death. Jesus rising from the dead has huge implications for us. It changed how humans relate to God forever. When he died, he took the punishment for all humanity’s sins upon himself. But when he rose again, he broke the power of sin and death, conquering these enemies. Because he rose again, our victory is in him.
We are made alive. Ephesians 2 says that before Jesus’ sacrifice, we were dead in our sins, blindly following satan and our own desires. Titus 3 says we were deceived and enslaved, being hated and hating one another.
But God has great mercy. He is kindness and love. So he made us alive with Christ. Do you see the imagery? When we trust Jesus as our Savior, our sins die with him. Just as he was dead, the things that used to enslave us and ruin us are also put to death. And just as he rose again, we are raised up with him in new life! This isn’t about dusting off a little sin in our lives. This is about Jesus turning dead people into alive people. A huge transforming work!
It’s not about our own goodness or merit. And that, friend, is truly good news. The work that Jesus did when he died and rose again is sufficient, and it applies to you no matter how bad you are. Jesus gives us his holiness and perfection as a gift. WE DON’T EARN IT FOR OURSELVES.
Easter isn’t a “new start” or a “second chance” for us. That language is for new year’s resolutions, and we all know how those usually go. We’re human: we’ll always, eventually, blow our second chances.
Instead, Easter is about Jesus pulling us up from our pit of death and hopelessness, and giving us new life that never fades or fails.
The work is finished. What Jesus did is once-for-all. He doesn’t have to die again when we sin too much more. The sacrifice doesn’t grow weaker as time goes on. No, it is finished. Firm and established.
Hebrews 10:12-13 says: “But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.”
He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. Psalm 103:12
We have a new identity. As we’ve talked about, Jesus’ sacrifice makes us alive. It also takes away all our sin. When God looks at us, he does not see our sin. That’s hard for me to believe sometimes, because I’m a perfectionist. I tend to focus too much on what I do wrong.
But we receive Jesus’ perfect identity. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by one sacrifice he [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” We are made perfect, flawless. We are also made God’s children: adopted into his family.
We have a new purpose. We rest in Jesus’ work. We don’t have to earn love or prove ourselves. So, what do we do? Well, Hebrews 10:19-25 has a few instructions. We draw near to God with a sincerity and confidence. We hold unswervingly to our hope. We look outward instead of inward, seeking ways to encourage each other. We meet together (digitally too 😉) and push each other toward love and good deeds. Jesus’ sacrifice changes us, and changes our purpose in life.
So I ask you, friend: Might we find life coming even from this virus and death that surrounds us? Can we seek how God is purposing this time in our world? We have all seen how quickly our earthly hopes and securities can crumble. Everyone has seen this. I pray that people are more open than ever to hearing about the powerful work of Jesus this Easter. Celebrate joyfully, friends! He is risen, and that’s something to be excited about.
Hello family and friends! I’m dropping in during this strange time to give a scatterbrained, although hopefully God-honoring life update. It’s hard to know what to say during this pandemic because everyone is going through difficult times, yet each situation is so different. We’re all struggling with this, and I hope it pushes us closer to more dependence and trust in God.
This quote from Spurgeon is so applicable as I process the last few months: “We are too prone to engrave our trials in marble and write our blessings in sand.” The bad news, anxieties, and setbacks in life can feel so ultimate, and if we’re not careful, we’ll let them snuff out the joy of our many blessings. I want to engrave my blessings in marble, where I can celebrate them and remember God’s faithfulness reflected in them. With that said, I’d love to share what’s been happening in my life lately, as well as the hope I’ve been pointed back to repeatedly.
I’ll start this post with a blessing: I was accepted into MSUM’s graduate program for Speech Language Pathology! This was my top choice school because the professors, resources, and clinic are top-quality. I’m thrilled to be starting in the program this Fall. It’s also a blessing to know that Brian and I won’t have to move, because of this next update:
Brian’s New Job
Brian recently began working part time as a Youth Pastor Intern at the church I grew up in. This has been so exciting and sweet! It’s great to see him do what he loves to do and went to college for. This is a desire we’d prayed about for 6 months before receiving the opportunity. God is good!
Life during the Coronavirus
More recently though, life has been strange (relatable, right?). The whole world has changed, and I find myself bouncing between many emotions and anxieties as I process it all.
In early-mid March I caught a cold that persisted and worsened over two weeks. I was freaked out and constantly analyzing my symptoms, but finally figured out it was a sinus infection. Whew!
After that went away, Brian started feeling not-so-great. His symptoms included a fever, which turned into a cough over time. After talking to nurses on the phone a few times, we decided he should be tested for COVID. The doctors said the results could take up to 7 days, so we stayed away from each other and prayed a lot.
Some things really drive you to prayer, and this was one for me. I didn’t fully feel the seriousness of this virus until it came so close to home. Brian’s test came back negative just two days later, which we’re still praising God for! The period of worry, waiting, and separateness felt so long, even though it wasn’t.
This opened my eyes to the reality of people’s anxiety and pain over this virus. Every single person who’s been affected matters. I want to continue praying just as seriously against this pandemic as I was when we thought Brian had it.
What about our wedding?
That’s a great question. This is the biggest thing in my life that’s been affected by the virus. Having the date set on May 30 made it feel like a non-question back in early March. But as we see the problem persist, we’ve had some hard conversations.
I’ve slowly come to accept that my wedding day may look vastly different from the day I’ve been planning and dreaming about for over a year. It may just be us, our Pastor, and our immediate families. Many of our pre-wedding events have been cancelled, and the honeymoon is also in question. My emotions have varied a ton, from “I have a surprising amount of peace right now!” to crying uncontrollably on the phone with my mom. There are just so many pieces of the day that may need to change drastically.
But, of course, there are blessings even here. I still get to marry Brian! While we’ve taken turns being sick, I’ve seen how beautiful it is to care for and support each other in hard times. This is just one thing I’m looking forward to in marriage! I’m also reminded that yes, a wedding is mostly about the marriage that follows. This is a belief I hold, but I feel like it’s being especially tested right now.
Well, friends, that’s my little update. I’m also becoming more and more excited about Easter as the day approaches. What better time to celebrate Jesus’ power and authority over all things? Let’s keep seeking our peace and security in Him!
2020 has been a year of interviews for me. I kicked January off with a healthy dose of four job interviews, and more recently have done two graduate school interviews in the past week. The process of interviewing (applying, practicing, dressing up, and then trying not to sweat through your clothes and stutter for 20 minutes) is quite the strange scenario to find yourself in.
The whole point of an interview is to prove yourself: to put forth your best qualities and experiences, communicating with clarity just how above-average you are. While you tell yourself “you’re enough!” and your friends say “anyone would be lucky to have you,” you know that the interviewer will have the final say. Are you actually unique and qualified, or did another applicant outshine you?
One interview experience particularly forced me into that comparison game: a group interview over Skype. Yes, that means that I, along with three other aspiring grad students, all got to answer questions and listen to each other’s answers.
I’m not sure if there’s anything more comparison-game-worthy than this: watching and listening to three composed, professional, and experienced young ladies, all the while stealing glances at your own face on the screen and wondering if your soft smile makes you look like Sid from Ice Age. Aaaaanyway, that’s just my experience.
I’ve also noticed that while preparing for interviews, I’ve boiled myself down into a few bullet points that I hope sound impressive. It seems that my past jobs, my degree, my carefully worded weakness, and my three strengths are who I am. And sometimes, sadly, they haven’t been enough.
Before this year, I’d never interviewed for something and not been accepted. That’s a formula for pride, so being rejected a few times has helped me see life in a more realistic way. It’s also tested my ability to put my identity and worth in things outside of myself and my success. These questions have risen to the surface:
Am I still valuable when I’m working a job that wasn’t my first choice?
Am I still loved when a few employers found candidates they liked better?
Am I still hopeful when I can’t accomplish something that I thought would be easy?
When it comes down to it, I don’t earn my value. I don't make myself lovable or worthy. My value is intrinsic because I, along with everyone, am made in God's image: not because I can accomplish big things. This is easier to accept when the lint roller, firm handshake, and perfect interview answers don’t earn me the position I really wanted.
I’m thankful for the reminder that only Jesus can give us unshakable certainty. He has redeemed us with his life, and given us unchanging value, love, and hope. He makes us more like himself in every circumstance: in success, failure, joy, and disappointment.
This steady foundation changes everything.
We don’t see life as our one shot to prove ourselves and earn our worth. Instead, we view life as a series of opportunities to love people and trust God more. It can be that simple. Jesus frees us to take chances and follow where he leads, without the pressure of perfection.
We may fail, but we’ll be okay. Our purpose and hope remain the same, no matter where we find ourselves.
Who gets overwhelmed by decisions? My hand is raised. Life is brimming with decisions right now: for me, Brian, and all my close friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re facing a sizable decision right now, too. Decisions seem to be the fabric that our earthly lives are made of.
I won’t write a novel about all that’s going on in my life right now, because I’m sure you have enough stress in your life to fill a page, too. Basically, I’m facing a lot of changes and decisions having to do with jobs, education, my wedding coming up, and the future in general.
My first response to a decision is to agonize through all the details: to flesh out every single option, the pros and cons, how the options would make me feel, and if I could picture my life with each option applied. There’s a lot of mental energy involved in the process, even when the decision is something dumb like table place cards for my wedding. Imagine what happens when the decision is a job change. If your brain doesn’t work like this, the good Lord has blessed you.
However, most people struggle with bigger decisions, because they alter your life so dramatically. Who should you date and potentially marry? Should you move to another city? What job would be the wisest option right now? I’m a young’un, so there are many life decisions coming along with age that I haven’t even considered!
Christians have the peace of knowing God and trusting his wisdom and will. But even then, seeking God’s will is a daunting task. This is something I have always struggled with, because there’s so much mystery surrounding the task. Should you look for a sign of some sort? What option do you feel peace about… and how do you even define the feeling of ‘peace?’ Are your underlying motives fear or selfishness? Will you read into a certain Bible verse, piece of advice, or coincidence too much, and end up making a fool of yourself?
What if you make the wrong decision?
That’s the biggest question for me. What if, after sorting through every single detail, praying for God’s will incessantly, asking for advice from wise people, trying to examine my motives, and submitting to the Bible’s teaching, I still make the wrong decision?
This accusing question has been quieted through one realization:
God uses everything in our lives to 1) bring himself glory, and 2) make us more like Jesus.
If you step back, away from the details that are in-your-face, and look at the main purpose for your life, this is it: God’s glory and your sanctification. These purposes can be accomplished through everything: even decisions that you would later consider ‘wrong.’
Yes, we seek to be wise, but even when things go wrong, God will use it. He uses every relationship, job, day, and minute to make us look more like Jesus. I just want to know him more and accomplish his purposes! May every piece of my life bind me closer to him: the carefree beachy days, the days weighed down by details and hard work, the days of deepest grief and sorrow, and the days of the mundane.
Will we take wrong turns, have disappointments, and struggle in this life? Most definitely. It’s to be expected. But even when we are getting overwhelmed by decisions, our Father is not bound by time. He sees all that we will be throughout eternity, and he has a reason for it.
This simplifies life, doesn’t it?
I have been especially encouraged by this passage in Ecclesiastes:
A Time for Everything
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
. . . 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, 12-14
I first read this passage when I was seriously trying to seek God’s will on a certain large life issue. And I laughed out loud. “Well, there’s a time for everything. That is not helpful in deciding what thing it’s time for.”
But where I had been searching for a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer from God, he brought me back to a peaceful remembering of my life’s overarching purpose. Yes, everything he does will endure forever. He will use everything.
So, is it the right time for fill-in-the-blank? God won’t always give you the clear answer you crave. I have come to believe that our job is to do our best to make wise decisions, then move on in confidence and trust.
Step back for a moment, beloved child of the King. He will use everything for his purposes. It will all be okay in the end.
I am prone to guilt: to being consumed by the things I’ve done wrong, the things that I am not, and by the knowledge that I am not perfect. Yes, sometimes I do brush away my sin far too flippantly, or ignore it, or live contentedly in it: this I am not proud of either. But the main vein of my response to sin or mistakes is guilt.
Here’s a prime example:
Last weekend, Brian (my fiancé) and I were in Sioux Falls, attending a marriage conference. We had a lunch break, so we drove downtown to find a restaurant we’d heard of. This restaurant turned out to be in a quite rundown area of town, and as we parked (right next to a homeless shelter), we realized it was permanently closed. No pizza for us.
As we sat in my car googling another place to eat, a stocky Native American man made his way to my window. He wore shabby clothes and had a wide face dotted with moles and blemishes. He ambled along slowly, but I couldn’t deny he was approaching us. I hesitantly rolled my window down, knowing exactly what he would ask.
“Hello. I know you are both hardworking people, is that right?” Brian and I nodded and smiled haltingly at the man while he made his request. Loose change, he asked for. Anything would help. I dug in the center console of my car and found approximately $2.50 in coins. It looked pathetic, but the amount was something for him and giving it away was nothing for me. He thanked us and said something about unity, then something else in his native language, raised a large hand in a wave, and left.
I rolled up my window, feeling mostly satisfied. “He was nice,” I commented to Brian. Although I had withheld a fresh $20 bill from the man, and it still nestled discreetly in my wallet, I mostly felt good about myself. I had done good.
As we made the short drive to our second-choice restaurant, though, guilt assailed me. Why hadn’t I said anything about Jesus? I had seen the chance. Then it had slipped away as I dropped the coins into the man’s open hand and drove away. What could I have said that would mean anything for his salvation? Why did I always miss opportunities?
We pulled into a parking spot across the street from the next restaurant, a bar that would have greasy, tasty food. It was in the same questionable area of town, and I felt an urge to get inside this place as fast as possible. As I got out and took a few clambering steps towards the restaurant, there was a group of three men behind me.
As I walked, one called out to me: “Hey sistah. Do you have ‘awogmbwmfo’?” The words jumbled as I turned towards them briefly and uncertainly called out “No—thanks—” then scurried across the road. What in the world did they want from me?
As I rejoined Brian and swung open the bar’s door, it clicked in my head.
Jumper cables. They had asked me if I had jumper cables.
To which I had responded: “No thanks!” and ran away.
Once Brian and I were seated, I was so overwhelmed by everything that had just happened that I came close to tears. I thought I looked like the biggest jerk ever. We were nicely dressed for the conference. We had been entering a restaurant, where we had plenty of money to fill our stomachs. We were so privileged. And I blew off someone asking for jumper cables.
On top of that I felt vulnerable and confused, and I also feared that I looked racist: all the men had been Native American. We ended up switching tables so we could keep an eye on my car, because I was convinced that they would break into my car or destroy it or something.
Looking back on it, I see that guilt assailed me when it had no right to. Those men didn’t have to yell out at me: they could have approached Brian and asked for jumper cables. In that moment, I had done what felt right and safe.
As we were driving away from the bar, we actually witnessed someone break into the car that had been parked next to us. Now I’m glad that we didn’t stop to chat, or even help them. My conscience is clear, and it saddens me that I felt so guilty right away.
I’ve been studying through 1 John with a friend, and a certain passage really stuck out to me when thinking through this experience and guilt:
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19-20
When we feel overwhelmed with guilt and condemnation, we know that God is greater than our feelings. He knows everything: he knows the stories and futures of those men who called out to me, he knows their true motives (whether innocent or ill-willed), and he knows my heart and my motives (whether innocent or ill-willed). Above self-condemnation, we have confidence and obedience in the Trinity. God has also given us the Spirit to remind us that we belong permanently to the truth, and he can lead us in uncertain and tricky situations.
Our hearts are not always right when they condemn us.
When our consciences are right
But honestly, sometimes they are right. An active conscience is a good gift. We are not perfect, and often give into selfishness, pride, sinful worry, lust, the need for control, and other sins. These sins need to be identified and killed. Often when my heart condemns me, it has every right to do so!
So how do we know if our hearts’ condemnation is right or wrong? I have a few questions we can ask ourselves when dealing with guilt:
The 4 Questions:
1. First, ask “did I sin?” If we have committed a sin (something that God says is wrong) then our conscience is right to make us feel uneasy. It is a good thing to recognize our own sin.
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8
On the other hand, if you’re feeling guilty about something that isn’t a result of your sin, you may need to recognize your guilt as faulty and overreactive. Either way, acknowledge the guilt, identify its source, and then move on to the next step.
2. Next, ask “Is this feeling of guilt making me feel paralyzed, dirty, and hopeless?” Satan loves to paralyze us in our shortcomings. He knows that everyone sins, and he wants to make us sad, ineffective, and stunted in growth because of that.
When God brings a sin to our minds, though, he does so to let us to move on in forgiveness, positive change, and victory over sin. There’s a difference here. If satan is trying to paralyze you in hopeless guilt, it’s time to ask Jesus for the power to let go and move on.
3. Next, ask “Have I trusted Jesus to forgive my sin?” If you have accepted Jesus’ work on the cross, you are now made holy in God’s eyes. You have Jesus’ spotless record given to you. You have a Savior who overcomes every sin, and you have received perfect forgiveness. Confess the sin to him and trust his power to forgive. You are made righteous!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
4. The final question is “How will I move forward in Jesus’ power to kill this sin?” This part is important. If we don’t move forward in killing our sin, it will continue to enslave us. Kill your sin, or it will kill you. Jesus gives us amazing grace and forgiveness, but lingering sin can still harm us and the people around us. The Bible uses strong language when it talks about killing sin. It’s something we’re commanded to do:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:5-8, emphasis added
It’s also incredibly helpful to have people around us who will help us in this process. Do you have someone you’re comfortable being honest with, someone who will lovingly bring your sin to light? We don’t need to confess our sins to others to be forgiven, but it can help us feel free and live free from these things. As followers of Christ, we want to live like him, and we should be helping each other do that!
So in the end, guilt is a tricky emotion. I hope that with these steps, you can trust God to help you move past guilt and deal with the things you need to. Ultimately, we have no condemnation because of our Savior Jesus. Thank him for this today!
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. John 3:17-18, emphasis added
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2, emphasis added
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!