Posted by: Philip Rushton | April 21, 2015

Honesty and Hope: Navigating the Easter season when life is hard

“To the extent that our lament is shallow our hope will be shallow” – Chris Rice

We have navigated a difficult tension as a community of faith this Easter season. In the midst of a season that focuses on the hope of resurrection, we have dealt with a lot of death and loss. A number of our loved ones have passed away or have been in the hospital. In fact, in the middle of writing this article about hope I had a friend stop by my office to lament and shed some tears over a very hard situation.

As such, I know there has been a dissonance in the heart of many of us this Easter. It is hard to talk about resurrection in a way that does not trivialize the reality of pain. A friend of mine who recently lost a loved one told me that they didn’t feel like they could attend church on Easter. It just seemed too hard.

Enjoyed Front Row Seats At Josh Garrel's CD Release Concert Last Week!

Enjoyed Front Row Seats At Josh Garrel’s CD Release Concert Last Week!

In the midst of this tension, I found some consolation last week while attending a concert featuring a favorite songwriter of mine named Josh Garrels. Garrels is one of the rare artists today who manages to sing songs of hope and redemption without compromising honesty. His lyrics speak to the complexities and the struggles of life while also pointing to a deeper hope that sustains us in the in-between spaces we often inhabit.

My favorite song of his is titled, “Father Along.” It is a call to hold on to hope in the midst of situations where we face confusion and despair. The song begins with these words:

Farther along we’ll know all about it
Father along we’ll understand why
Cheer up my brothers, live in the sunshine
We’ll understand this, all by and by

Tempted and tried, I wondered why
The good man died, the bad man thrives
And Jesus cries because he love them both
We’re all cast-aways in need of ropes
Hangin’ on by the last threads of our hope
In a house of mirrors full of smoke
Confusing illusions I have seen.

The Christian life often involves living in this tension between honesty and hope. The Psalmist is always modeling this for us. The Psalms are full of lament. They speak of tears, anger, oppression, and fear; yet, they are also layered with images and proclamations of hope.

It seems like this balance is missing in our culture. Much of the secular art and poetry of our day does a powerful job of depicting the brokenness and despair of life; yet, there are very few voices that point to redemption and hope. At the other end of the spectrum we have a lot of Christian art and music that speaks of hope without honestly naming the reality of pain. In his essay, “Art and the Bible,” Francis Schaeffer writes, “evangelical or biblical Christian it has been weak at this point. About all that we have produced is very romantic Sunday school art.” The danger of articulating hope without naming the reality of pain is that we end up with a cheap or trivial hope. As Chris Rice says, “to the extent that our lament is shallow our hope will be shallow”

During Eastertide (the 50 days of Easter) we are given space to meditate on the hope of the resurrection. This is a season where are encouraged to cultivate hope and consider how things can be different because what God has done in raising Christ from the dead. This is not a call, however, to deny and repress the reality of pain and death. We are called to engage the reality of life with honesty, while continuing to look for signs of hope and redemption.

As we journey through Eastertide, then, my prayer is that we might discover fresh ways to speak about hope in an honest way. A Christian community is meant to be a place where we can name our grief while also having the audacity to hope that the forces of resurrection and redemption are at work in our midst.

If you are interested in listening to some of Josh Garrel’s music check out the following link: https://joshgarrels.bandcamp.com/

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