Easter offers hope to weary souls

There’s a saying in Scotland: ‘it’s a sair fecht’. Essentially, it means ‘life’s hard’. We use it when we’re feeling frustrated or worn out. And let’s face it: we all do, at times. Most of us travel through our days at lightspeed, rushing from work, to exercise, to family duties, to socialising, and collapsing in a heap at the weekend. Compounding our sense of exhaustion is the endless bombardment of, often negative, media we consume. 

Weariness, physical and mental, is a common feature of human life. A period of rest – a holiday, or quiet weekend – helps us to recharge our batteries and set us up for another busy season. However, there comes a point when the charger stops working. We can become worn down by our circumstances to the point of exhaustion. It seems like more people are arriving here in the current context.

The pandemic ground ordinary living to a halt. Every community in the UK has faced bereavement. People are still reeling from the pressure wrought on public services like the NHS. We’re experiencing a mental health pandemic. A loneliness pandemic. Living costs have skyrocketed. Poverty is spreading like a cancer. Many people in our society are at the lowest point they’ve ever been. It’s tough.

The Christian message, shared in churches across the world at Easter time, is honest about the hardships we all, inevitably, face. It provides an explanation for them. And, crucially, it offers hope to all people, down to the most-weary among us. Whoever we are, wherever we come from, whatever we are facing, and however broken we feel, we are loved by God.

“There comes a point when the charger stops working. We can become worn down to the point of exhaustion.”

The crux of Christianity is this: on a hill outside Jerusalem, more than 2,000 years ago, the incarnate son of God was put to death on a Roman cross. He was laid to rest in a tomb. On the third day, he rose again and ascended to heaven. These events sparked a movement that spread like wildfire in the Roman world, and it continues to change millions of lives across the world to this day.

You’ve probably heard the story of the cross before. We live in a culture that has been deeply shaped by Christianity. But I think it’s fair to say it’s disregarded by most people. I want to suggest to you that it’s not something to ignore. Firstly, because I believe it’s true – it’s attested to by sound historical evidence and spiritual experience. And because it has earth-shattering implications.

This world is an imperfect place. It is awesome in so many ways but there is evil, injustice, suffering, and death. Christianity teaches that it wasn’t meant to be this way. This world was created “very good” but it is broken, spoiled by a spiritual disease called “sin” that wreaks havoc in human hearts, and mars the earth itself. If you’ve ever wondered why the world, and our lives, are messed up, here’s an explanation.

Because of sin, all human beings have “fallen short of the glory of God”. We do things that displease God and hurt other people. And because of this, we are separated from our creator and liable to judgment – a judgment that cannot be mitigated by ‘living a good life’. It’s a hard message to hear, but it’s what the Bible teaches. I think all of us at a deep level can attest to guilt about things we’ve done.

“Whatever you face in life, know this: God loves you, he cares about you, and he wants to hear from you.”

But the story doesn’t end here. Yes, we are messed up. No, we can’t get right with God ourselves. But the Christian faith makes a unique claim: God himself entered into this world in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. And he paid the price for our sins by dying on a Roman cross. By asking for forgiveness, turning away from our wrong way of life and obeying Jesus, we can be reconciled to God.

If you read the Bible – a book that spans thousands of years – you’ll see that this “salvation” plan was heralded long before Jesus lived. Prophecies pointing to a Messiah (saviour) occur throughout the Old Testament. In the book of Isaiah for example, written 700 years before Jesus was born, we find the promise of a figure who would be punished by God in order to save human beings. Isaiah 53:5 says:

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Jesus bore the judgment of God that humanity deserves so that we can have a relationship with the God who made us. That means peace, help, and purpose in this life, and an eternal future full of great joy. As John, a disciple of Jesus, said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is the hope of Easter.

This might all be new and perplexing to you. If you only take away one thing, let it be this: there is a God, he loves you, and he wants to hear from you. You can pray that he will show himself to you, and study the Bible to find out more about him. Honest prayers find answers. Remember this too: Jesus is a living person, who is the only way to God. And he extends this wonderful invitation:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30).

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