When I was a kid, Easter was all about the candy—and how much my siblings and I could consume before our parents pulled the plug on our sugar fix. Of course, we dyed eggs of various pastel colors. And, I looked forward to wearing a pretty new dress on Easter Sunday.
While I enjoyed the festivities and the food (especially the cake in the shape of a lamb at my Grandma’s house), I had no idea there was more to this holiday.
Finally, I learned about the real meaning of Easter, that it was about forgiveness, grace and love of an amazing kind.
Think about someone you love right now. Maybe it's your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, best friend, or a child. As much as you love him or her, God loves you a million jillion times more (infinitely more) than that.
In fact, God loved you and me—and all people—so much that he demonstrated it in a way the world would never forget.
John 3:16 tells us, "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."
That, my friend, is very good news.
Why? Because of what Jesus Christ did for us; we can live forever, forgiven and free!
The joy of Easter is hope. After the darkness and death of Good Friday comes the light and life of Easter Sunday. He's alive! I'm forgiven. Let's celebrate!
So how can we live out the joy of Easter beyond Easter Sunday?
Here are four key ideas I've been pondering:
1. Know that some things need to die. There is no resurrection without first a death. There is no glorious Easter Sunday with first a Good Friday. Likewise, some things need to die (be surrendered to God) in our own lives.
I like the imagery Jesus used about a seed falling into the ground; it has to die so it can bring forth life. Here's what he said (as recorded in John 12: 24): "Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds."
Just as the seed surrenders to the soil, we learn to surrender our selfish and sinful ways.
We surrender our ways for God's ways, yielding to His will and His timing knowing He is leading us toward His good purposes. It's not always easy. That's for sure. But as we persevere—and wait—we find that His ways always lead to the best outcomes.
2. Accept that there's a period of waiting. Christ was buried in a tomb. Then what? Silence. In our own lives, when we surrender our stuff to God we often have to wait—sometimes for days, sometimes for years or decades.
It's in the quiet and dark seasons of life that our character is tested. How will we respond—with patience and faith or with pouting and fear?
One day, the seed that was surrendered to the soil begins to sprout—and eventually bears fruit. So, too, we can reap a harvest of a lifetime from our surrendered hopes and dreams as we persevere and have faith.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."
3. Believe for the day things will "arise." At the first break of dawn, on the third day after he was buried, a group of people went to the tomb to check on the body of Jesus. Here's what happened:
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'" (Mark 16:5-7)
Easter means ultimate victory! Christ arose from the dead. And, today He resurrects things in our lives too.
We can choose to surrender to God control. And fear. And worry. And doubt. We can finally stop trying to make things happen in our own strength, and trust that God is at work, even in the quiet and dark places.
And then, like a tender green shoot that erupts from the cool, dark earth, something worthy and wonderful happens in our own lives. To our joyful surprise, we arise to:
Joy after sorrow.
Peace after pain.
Forgiveness after an argument.
A dormant dream finally awakened.
Hope for the days ahead.
4. Live like you believe it. Easter is only one day of the year. But we can live the joy of the holiday every day as we learn to surrender, knowing that it leads to a fruitful and triumphant life.
Do you have dreams that seem dead? A dream of a healthy dating relationship, a great marriage, a loving family? Do you desire to start a business or ministry, lose weight or do something that seems like it’s never going to happen?
As believers, we have "incomparably great power…that power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead." (See Ephesians 1:19-20).
That's some kind of power!
But, first, it's time to prepare.
As you anticipate the upcoming Easter season, you may want to try some of these ideas:
• Read the Easter story. Sure, this is familiar stuff. But read it again, perhaps with others (or even read it aloud), and find some new insights this year. If this is new to you, turn to the book of Mark (or any of the Gospels) in your Bible.
• Reflect. Spend time alone with God in your prayer time and ask Him what you need to surrender in your life, and what you need to arise to in your life.
• Gather with other believers at church on Easter morning. Or, find a sunrise service in your area held outdoors, which can often be inspiring in new ways.