When it is hard, and feels like the death of something

I am in a hard season. Some hard things you see coming, but this one took me by surprise. After months and years of daily ups and downs in a relatively safe and happy routine, we woke up to a different world. There is pain here, and loss and change and a whole bevy of unknowns, all those things we spend our lives trying to avoid. I am having to die to some things right now, especially the illusion of my own control and security.

I am not alone in this season, not the only one facing a sort of death. I am here with a neighbor facing a biopsy. A dear friend dealing with chronic pain and illness, and another facing the loss of her job and calling. I am here with friends in life long mental health battles and more than one friend walking through mental illness and the resultant questions and behavior with their children. And I am here with friends who uncovered abuse in their children’s lives.

That is an awful lot of hard, a lot of pain, a lot of death. Meanwhile we come to the end of the Lenten season, as the worldwide church prepares to relive and reenact the great story of the Christian faith, life out of death.

This is our story, as Jesus people, life out of death: Resurrection. I just wish we could skip over the death part and go straight to new life. I 100% believe that God can bring life out of this death, but I am running like heck from the death itself. And I would do just about anything to rescue my friends in hard places from the deaths they are facing.

But would that be kindness? And isn’t that saying I know better than God what is best? Is it possible that I am kinder and more loving than our heavenly Father? NO. So there must be purpose here.

I have a lot of questions, and very few answers.

I have a lot of questions, but I do get glimmers of an answer from a conversation Jesus had in the week before His crucifixion.

And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:23-26)

Jesus refers to His coming Crucifixion by saying “the hour has come…to be glorified.” His suffering and death are His glorification. Nothing in my life right now, and none of the suffering I see around me, looks very glorious. But there is glory in death, and even in suffering, when we embrace God’s goodness and believe that there is more going on than our eyes can see.

Father God, give us eyes to see your glory in our hard.

What is the link between suffering, death and glory? Jesus explains: “…Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Death is necessary for life. This is a mystery, but a truth in the Spirit world as it is in the physical world. Life comes from death. A baby dies to the safety of the womb in order to enter the world of growth. A caterpillar dies to its life on the leaf, entering the grave of the chrysalis, in order to live as a butterfly. And in order to multiply and bless, a seed has to fall into the ground and die. Jesus tells us here that we need not fear death (loss and pain in this life, as well as final death), because death is only a doorway.

Father God, help us embrace the death that is necessary to enter new life.

How do we allow ourselves to “fall to the earth and die” like that grain of wheat? “In the same way, anyone who holds onto life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (John 12:25, The Message)

Father God, heal us from our fear of death and failure, and make us reckless in our love.

“If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me…” We tend to attach a lot of complicated ideas to following Jesus. But what if we just understood it simply, in the context of these verses? What if Jesus is telling us that the way to serve Him, to participate in His Kingdom work, is to follow Him on the road to the cross? To follow Him away from the fear of death, trusting the Father’s resurrection life?

Father God, show us how to follow Jesus, embracing His promise that even as we face deaths big and small, He will be with us.

This is our story, as Jesus people, life out of death. Can I believe this promise? Can I trust Jesus with the hard things that feel like death?

I am trying to hold all of my unknowns out to the Lord, with open hands.

I picture myself holding the different things I fear losing in this hard season: Hopes, dreams, expectations. Control. And then I picture myself letting them fall into the ground. Letting them die.

Turning from trying to perform or achieve or fix (for myself or for others), turning from the temptation to numb and escape, turning from the demand for explanations.

Turning to release. Trusting. Hoping. Seeing each thing I’m letting go of as a seed, falling to the ground and dying, so that God can grow something new.

Can I trust our Good Father to hold my hand (and to hold each of us who find ourselves in hard places)? Can I trust Him as I walk into things that feel like death? Do I trust Him to bring life in my hard places?

“Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground…it is never any more than a grain of wheat…” (John 12:24, The Message)

I do want to be more than a grain of wheat.

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