Happy Easter, everyone!
It’s SPRING. Flowers are beginning to bloom. Winter has come to an end. It’s the season of wedding bells and pregnancy announcements, with graduation right around the corner. Excitement and nerves displayed together in the bright-eyed faces of people with even brighter futures within their gaze. It’s the time of year when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection, family, love, joy, and new beginnings. As I scroll through my social media accounts, I see picture after picture of beautiful smiling faces – friends and families, parents and kids, all dressed up; toddling beauties in floral dresses and hair bows, little boys squirming in slacks and button-down shirts, generations of friends and family – brought together to celebrate new life. Easter egg hunts, cookouts and church services, followed by Sunday lunch and afternoon naps; it’s a day filled with joy because of hope and new beginnings.
However, the reflection on life and celebration of new beginnings is also exactly why holidays like Easter, Christmas, and New Year’s are HARD for those living with chronic illnesses. It’s extremely difficult to avoid playing the comparison game, when you feel frozen in time, especially on a day when the focus is “new beginnings.” I often find myself stuck dwelling on the life I used to have or the life I expected I’d have, because facing the one I’m living now is frightening and painful. When you have a chronic illness, typically the only new beginnings in your life are “starting a new treatment” or “starting a new medication” or “seeing a new doctor.” Rarely, do I get to talk about and celebrate the things the majority of my friends and family are celebrating, the things I want more than anything for myself, like “starting a career” or “starting a family”. While I’m truly overjoyed for my friends and family who aren’t struggling in the same way I am, it’s still painful.
This year, you won’t see a “Happy Easter from the Laymans!” photo, not because we didn’t want to take one, but because I was too sick and in too much pain to make it out of bed, or even to change the tshirt and sweats I’ve been in for several days. (How’s that for honesty?!) I wanted so badly to make it to church this morning with my husband. I love to join in the joy and energy, radiant and abundant, around family and friends with smiling faces and hope in their eyes. Even while my own future is up in the air, I truly crave celebrating the new beginnings of the people I love; yet, the fact that my own dreams are on hold is always in the back of my mind, tugging on my heartstrings. I don’t know when or if I’ll have children to dress, tiny hands to hold, noses to wipe, and little bodies to hustle out the door for church on Sunday mornings. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever bring home another paycheck or a diploma or a plane ticket to a destination that doesn’t involve treatment or medical care. If I’m honest, my heart breaks every time I yearn for the normalcy I used to expect from life. It’s even more difficult to think about when I’m laying in bed, alone, with the curtains drawn and tears in my eyes, from the physical pain that overwhelms me.
It’s so easy to feel stuck in the darkness and uncertainty of NOW, but Easter is more than a day of celebrating new beginnings. Easter is a day about celebrating our HOPE of the joy to COME, and no one hopes quite like a *spoonie. Naturally, those who feel broken and stuck and lost in suffering, must crave the possibility of joy through the hope for a better tomorrow, far more desperately than anyone in comfort possibly could. It’s true that I have no guarantee that I’ll ever be healthier than I am today, or that I’ll ever be more active, more energetic, or more independent. I have no guarantee that I’ll ever be well enough to pursue my dreams of graduating from college, working, motherhood, writing, traveling, or simply teaching classes at church. Yet, I still cling to the hope that the next treatment might bring me one step closer to fulfilling those dreams. More than anything, I hope that God would be able to work through me; and I know He can, He hasn’t stopped. It’s that hope because of grace that drives me to open my eyes every morning, and start the day with joy in my heart, and a smile on my face.
Furthermore, I know that even if I never see the day when my health is restored, I have a hope that is far more important and more powerful than any plans or expectations I hold for my life on Earth. I know without a doubt that Jesus died and rose from the dead, so that I could have an everlasting HOPE for the future. I know that my savior is coming back again. I know that He promised me that someday I’ll be in Heaven with Him, and all the suffering I’m experiencing now will be less than a distant memory. I’ll never cry from pain, fear, or despair ever again. I will be FREE from all the chains and limitations that bind me here on Earth. Don’t believe that Easter is a day meant for those to celebrate life NOW, but instead, realize that Easter is the day we celebrate the joy we have BECAUSE of our HOPE of what is YET to COME, because Jesus died to free of us from the sin that held us back from closeness with God. Jesus’ resurrection means far more to those with nothing, whose spirits are renewed, whose hearts are filled with joy, because of the hope we have for life in Heaven! It certainly means more to me now, laying in bed, hurting, too sick to move, than it ever could when I was healthy. I cling to hope more fervently now than I ever did before my illness. I’m so thankful for new beginnings, but beyond that, I’m thankful for the HOPE of new beginnings! I’m thankful for the transformation that hope caused in my life.
When Mary came to Jesus’ tomb, days after His death on the cross, it was in despair, darkness, and in the midst of the most desperate grief and mourning. She found the stone had been rolled away, the tomb was empty, because Jesus had risen from the dead! He overcame death itself to bring us LIFE. Easter is a day meant especially for the downtrodden, the hurting, the grieving, the lost. Today is the day we celebrate a time when those without hope received it. If you’re hurting – whether it’s because of illness, loss, poverty, loneliness, depression, fear, anger, or any struggles in life – today is the day to REJOICE. Because of Christ, we have HOPE for a better tomorrow. When we place our trust and our hope in God, when we confess our sins, declare Him as our Savior, and are baptized into Christ… that joy becomes OURS. Nothing can steal my joy or my hope, because hope in the Lord is unbreakable. Today, I celebrate with immeasurable joy, even in spite of my illness, because I have a promise, a purpose, and a passion, that makes all the suffering in the world WORTH IT.
Happy Easter! 🎉🙌
Jesus said to her, “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. (NIV)
1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (NIV)
1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (NIV)
* Spoonie is a term for someone suffering from a chronic illness. Google “The Spoon Theory” by Christine Miserandino