We currently live in a world where countless books have been written and read by countless believers about “declared dead on the operating table” or similar experiences with predictable tales of a white light at the end of a tunnel and angels telling the newly dead, “It is not your time yet… Go back! Go back!” But there are far fewer books by women standing at an empty tomb saying, “He’s back! He’s back!”
We currently live in a world where people find it far easier to believe in a crucifixion than in a resurrection. Crucifixions, many say, are a daily reality whereas resurrections are the stuff of fairy tales. Okay. Fair point. Don’t want to argue.
But be careful what you choose to… and refuse to… believe. People believe in many strange things, often without even knowing it. But believing in the wrong messenger with the wrong message may cast you into despair and, perhaps, much worse.
Many people, for example, place their faith in doubt. They become complacent and comfortable in suspicion, cynicism and disbelief. Being dismissive of people, places and things can offer a sense of solace and strength. But doubt can also muster its own army of disbelief that can mutiny against you.
Many people, similarly, are faithful to fear. They experience fear at a primal level. It is, after all, human instinct to turn in the direction of an explosion. Blood falls to your legs to enable you to run much faster than usual (fight or flight). Adrenalin quickens your pulse and causes the veins in your neck to bulge, carrying blood to your hyper-awakened brain.
No wonder so many people believe in fear and allow it to be their leader. Many people actually become devout Disciples of Fear, perhaps even without knowing it. But fear can blind you to faith, and ultimately make you feel vulnerable and helpless.
Don’t believe me? Using fear as a weapon, look what ISIS has been able to accomplish without owning a single airplane or setting foot on American soil. Look at the role that fear is playing in the presidential primary on both sides. You don’t need specific examples from me about fear being used as a weapon. Just turn on the TV, radio, or internet. Yes, fear is real. But be careful: Fear is a merciless task master.
How does post-Easter, resurrection life help us with this morass of fear?
In accepting crucifixion, Jesus was saying ~ to the Romans then and to us now ~ you can crucify my body, but you cannot crucify my soul. You can invade and occupy my country, but you cannot invade and occupy my mind or my spirit because my spirit belongs to God and my God-given spirit cannot be created, negated or destroyed by the likes of you or anyone else.
Post-Easter faith for Christians does not mean that we can put on rose-colored glasses because nothing bad will happen to you if last Sunday you put on an Easter bonnet and listened to an impassioned and upbeat sermon. Evil, tragedy, injustice and stupidity remain a presence in the world despite our faith. I know this from personal experience and I bet you do too.
Fear and doubt come and go ~ but it is hope that springs eternal. What our senses and experience has declared to be dead, buried, defeated and impossible can rise and live again. Unfortunately, every resurrection is preceded by a crucifixion. Bummer. But there is always reason for hope because God is here to guide us and to help us cope with whatever difficulties we may go through. It is our hope and faith, not our fear and doubt that resurrects and sustains us, time and time again. Christ is a real and present help in times of trouble therefore we need not succumb to the manipulative power of fear, doubt and despair. Faith is perfectly built to help us cope with crazy times like these. Stop leaping into the lap of fear and you will witness to despair being transformed into hope. Guess what? Love is stronger than hate. And faith is stronger than fear.
BREAKING NEWS: Moments ago, a stone was rolled away from the entrance to a cave of doubt within which that was once dead within was suddenly alive again. But, then again, that is not really “news” because I have seen many lives, many relationships, communities and countries crawl out of countless caves of doubt, despair, hate and fear. And they have been restored, renewed, transformed, resurrected, and given another chance to dream, to build, to share, to hope, to love and to grow into that which God intends. Imagine that!
This article originally appeared at Patheos.com and is reprinted with permission.
Dwight Lee Wolter is pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York. He is the author of several books and blogs at dwightleewolter.com.