Out of the Wreckage of Life
Matthew 28:5,6 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.”
Jesus predicted his death and his resurrection, but I get the sense that his followers really did not understand what was coming. When He was crucified and buried, they must have felt profound despair with the realization that they had wasted their lives. They had given all to follow a failed messiah. Still, they loved him and they went to see the his burial site.
In their mourning, they must have harbored a spark of hope (or maybe denial). That flicker fanned to a flame when they found an angel and an empty tomb. Their utter hopelessness must have melted as they began to believe. The hope they dared to indulge in was then realized, as they met the risen Christ. In that moment, they went from complete despair to profound joy.
This is what Jesus does for those who follow him. He does not make us perfect or guarantee wealth and success. He does promise though, that He will meet our deepest longings and He frees us from slavery to ourselves. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden… and you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28,29).
When anyone asks me why I follow God, I tell them of this transformation. I followed self to destruction and despair. In that despair, I turned to God. I was not promised that my life would return to normal. In fact, I was quite sure life would never go back to the way it once was. I was not promised my career or family back (though I eventually got both). I was only promised that if I followed Christ, my life would be better than the disaster of following me. Jesus continually saves me from the wreckage of me.
We may think that our greatest need, conflict and miseries stem from external events or other people. If we understand however, that our greatest purpose and need in this life is to know God, then we see that no one else on earth has the power to choose misery for us. We alone can choose a joy and peace that nothing can take away.
I look back at the misery and despair of following me and I remember how, in that moment, I could not see how my life could ever be repaired. I did believe in God though, so I turned to him. My need was so profound that I knew that no one else could handle it. In following God instead of me, life, joy and hope returned.
This does not always happen all at once. Growth for us is sometimes painfully slow and life is not made easy just because we follow God. Once we turn from self to God though, we stop sowing the seeds of our own destruction. Then life can grow out of the wreckage.