It’s jarring when we get a concentrated glimpse of evil.
While most agree that there is plenty of darkness in the world, we are often able to avoid its most overt expressions day-to-day.
Most of us (rightly) spend more time focusing on good, true, and beautiful things.
But sometimes, the ancient serpent rears its ugly head in devastating ways that break through whatever layers of protection we have insulated ourselves with.
Last Monday was one of those days. As I prepared to board a plane for Chicago, the unthinkable was happening in Nashville.
There was a shooter. There were teachers. Children. A pastor’s daughter. A devastated community.
This type of evil is so horrifically gut-wrenching that words seem hollow and insufficient. In truth, words (alone) are hollow and insufficient.
The problem of pain and the presence of evil requires a solution that transcends human capacity and thought.
Evil is all too real and present. And in the wake of days like last Monday, the evidence can be overwhelming.
Good Friday was another one of those days.
If you’ve fallen out of touch with the horror, agony, and injustice of the crucifixion, it won’t take long to refamiliarize yourself.
The Author of Life laid down His life at the hands of a mob. Jesus hung on the cross, breathed His last, and died. A messy, humiliating, violent death.
Evil rejoiced and (apparently) had won.
While we have the clarity that comes with hindsight, the best friends and followers of Jesus were left that day grappling with death, loss, and confusion.
And yet, they were also left with a promise. Three days later, the oppressive gloom of Good Friday was shattered by the breathtaking joy of Resurrection Sunday.
This Sunday, I, along with millions of other Christians around the world, will celebrate Easter.
And each of us celebrates within the context of a victory fully won, but not yet fully realized.
So it is in Nashville. And in Ukraine. And in Washington, D.C. And in your neighborhood. And in each of our hearts.
The battle has been won, but the story isn’t over. The ending is indescribably beautiful, but we have a few chapters left before we get there. Those chapters contain great beauty of their own, but they are mixed with great loss, heartache, and confusion.
If we believe that this life and this world is all there is, it is easy to despair. None of us have the power to stop evil in its tracks or heal the wounds that mark bodies and souls.
But as Christians, we have a relationship with the One who does have that power.
Eternal life doesn’t begin when we die and go to Heaven. It begins the moment we move from spiritual death to spiritual life. And while eternal life continues beyond the end of time, it has also begun and is a reality right now.
Our bodies will die. Whether it’s age, disease, or unexpected tragedy, our earthly lives have an expiration date.
Jesus came to do so much more than make this life more bearable. He came to open the way to the next life where every tear will be wiped away and pain and suffering will be gloriously absent.
Properly understood, the resurrection isn’t a BAND-AID; it’s a lifeline.
And this comes with remarkable implications for earthly life.
We get to engage the darkest corners of this world with a hope that seems unreasonable to those who haven’t experienced it.
Instead of simply numbing the pain of this world or “softening the blow” a bit, Jesus comes to redeem.
The idea of redemption can feel scary. It promises a lot. Sometimes, it feels like it promises too much.
Redemption almost seems like too much to hope for. Too good to be true.
Some of us are more comfortable with justice—or recompense—holding the evil accountable in some way. In His holiness, God does each of those things… but He also goes further.
I don’t think we can really understand how deeply restorative the fullness of redemption will be.
But my guess is that we will feel a lot like Mary Magdalene when she stood in front of the empty tomb.
Her anguish and fear slowly gave way to puzzlement and then her eyes were opened to the glorious reality of the moment.
Our time on this earth exists in a bit of a paradox. As followers of Christ, our King has already defeated death and the grave. Evil has lost and good has won. Ultimately.
And yet... we still live in a time where evil prevails far too often. These final chapters can be hard.
We look forward to fully realized resurrection life in the future. And yet, somehow, we carry it around inside of us right now. It’s what keeps us going and keeps us alive to the beauty in this great story.
Thus, on the darkest days when evil rears its ugly head once again, we weep with those who weep.
And yet, miraculously, we do not mourn like those who have no hope.
It’s Friday, but Sunday's coming.