I came into this Easter season feeling really heavy. We were dealing with sickness of all kinds in my home (my kids and myself). The weather has been ridiculously uncooperative – is it ever going to get warm!? How many snows have we seen this April?! The grief triggers I wrote about last month seemed to restart my grieving process all over again, and none of the aforementioned circumstances have helped my mood. I haven’t been able to shake the heaviness. The characters in the Easter story that I could relate the most to this year have been the disciples on the day after Jesus’ died. Confused. Disappointed. Grieving. Doubting. I wasn’t experiencing the usual joy that accompanies the spring season and especially the Easter holiday. I’m not sure why I feel so compelled to put all this out there. It’s personal and not particularly fun to expose or dwell on. But it feels necessary because I suspect I’m not alone. I know very few people who haven’t been affected by loss, deep and personal, over the last two years. Maybe I’m not the only one who is still feeling heavy at times? Once again my little plants spoke to me in my heaviness.
I was moving some sunflower sprouts with my youngest daughter because they were needing a taller container to support their stems. (Note: sunflowers do not love growing in a greenhouse tent as much as they love growing in the SUN. But that’s a whole other blog post.) As we moved the little sprouts, Hannah was amazed to see that there was as much plant under the soil as there was on top of the soil. There was actually probably more under the soil than on top. She exclaimed, “Woah, Mom! Look at that long stringy white part” as she saw the root emerge completely from the soil during one transplant. I was even amazed at its length! I explained to her that while we saw the stem and the leaves emerging on top of the soil, that the important work was really happening under the surface. When we watered the transplant, I told her that the roots needed the water, not the leaves, and I explained how the leaves’ job was to draw in sunlight for energy. But just like the water, it was the roots that needed the sun’s energy to grow the plant. Foundation is everything.
The same is true for you and me. Our foundation is everything. We need to have our feet firmly planted in the truth of God’s Word so that when the difficult times comes, we can stand through the power of the Holy Spirit and not crumble to our doubts, emotions, and circumstances. So I thought on what Scripture would speak to my grieving heart.
Here is what I am standing on, and if you are grieving, I invite you to join me in standing here:
Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25)
Jesus was speaking to Martha, a grieving sister and close friend of Jesus, about the death of her brother Lazarus. I’m especially struck by Jesus’ question to her at the end of the verse. “Do you believe this?” That’s the key. Jesus is plainly stating the truth, but the choice us up to Martha, and up to you and me, to believe or not.
Death and belief feel like oil and water to me right now. Death is just a tricky topic to process. Our eyes tell us one thing; and our spirit wants to tell us another. When I lost my dad, I certainly came to a full stop at a canyon in my faith. I’ve come to a lot of these canyons in my life – when my mom battled cancer, quitting my teaching career to stay at home with my babies, the season when my husband was unemployed, many different doctors, tests, and diagnoses for Sophie. But none gave me pause the way my dad’s death did. I’ve always been able to take the leap of faith required, but this time felt different. My reality is that he is gone. There is loss, there is a hole now in my life. It has taken a much bigger leap of faith to look at that gaping chasm, that death, and to say, “Death is a lie. Jesus is the resurrection and the life.” But I believe – yes, I believe – that this is the true reality, beyond what my eyes can see.
In the last 18 months I have prayed many times the prayer of the father in Mark 9 who desires healing for his son, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (v 24) Without my foundation being God’s Word, I know that I would be truly lost right now. But because of it, I can continue to stand on the truth, even when my feelings (and my eyes!) tell me something else is true.
Not only do the sunflower roots remind me of my foundation, they also remind me that there is much going on that we cannot see. Even in the seasons where we feel heavy, where we mourn, where we doubt or lose hope, God is still busy growing and building things in us. It’s ok for us to feel our losses and have seasons of mourning – they do not negate our faith. There are many accounts in the Bible of times of mourning.
The day after Jesus’ death, I feel certain that the disciples had, for the moment, lost their hope. Our pastor pointed out on Easter Sunday that evidence of this is seen in the fact that no one shows up to the tomb on the third day waiting for Jesus to rise from the dead, even though he told them plainly that he would. They were confused, lost, doubtful, and hopeless. Because they didn’t believe what he had said.
But this did not negate what Jesus was accomplishing while he was in the tomb! Even in their doubts, he was still at work! Even in our dark times, Jesus is still working, still growing those unseen roots.
This brings me back to Jesus’ question to Martha: “Do you believe this?” By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can choose belief, we can choose faith, we can trust God’s Word, even when all seems dark, lost, and hopeless. This is our foundation, our roots, our firm place to stand when circumstances are falling out all around us. Just like those sunflower roots growing under the surface, we can know there is spiritual work happening even in the dark times if we keep standing firm in what we know to be true.
I don’t know what heaviness you are carrying with you today, but I encourage you to find out what the Bible says about it and to choose belief. Choose to be rooted in the truth of God’s Word, and trust that he is doing much in the unseen places.