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 holiday sugar fix. Of course, we dyed eggs in various pastel colors. And I looked forward to wearing a pretty new dress on Easter Sunday.
I enjoyed the festivities and the food (especially the lamb-shaped cake with coconut that my Grandma always served). Back then, I had no idea there was more to this springtime celebration.
When I was in high school, I learned about the true and deeper meaning of Easter. And about the complete forgiveness, amazing grace and unconditional love available to each of us through Jesus Christ.
Think about someone you love. Maybe it's your boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, best friend, or a child. As much as you love that person, God loves you infinitely more.
If only we knew how much God loves us. It would change everything. In fact, God loves 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.
Because of what Jesus Christ accomplished by overcoming death and rising again victorious and alive, we can live forever, forgiven and free!
That is the hope and joy of Easter.
After the darkness and death of Good Friday comes the startling, good news of Easter Sunday. He's alive! I'm forgiven. Let's celebrate!
So, how can we live out the joy of Easter every day? Here are four key ideas I've been pondering:
1. There is no resurrection without first a death.
There is no glorious Easter Sunday without a Good Friday. Likewise, some things in our own lives need to "die," to be surrendered to God so we can become all we're intended to be.
Think about a seed falling into the ground. Jesus 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."
Alone, one seed is just one seed. But planted, it will grow to be a tall plant or flower—or in this case, a crop of wheat. But the seed has to first die before it brings forth life.
Just as the seed surrenders to the soil, we learn to surrender our selfish and sinful ways. It's not always easy. But as we persevere—and wait—we find that God grows in us His best outcomes and lasting spiritual fruit.
2. There's a time of waiting.
After Christ was buried in a tomb, silence. In our own lives, when we surrender different areas of our lives to God, we often have to wait days, years or even decades for things to change.
But it is in these quiet and dark seasons of life that our character is tested. How will we respond while we wait—with patience and faith, or with pouting and fear?
The good news is that eventually, a seed begins to sprout, and one day it 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 to trust God's timing: "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 hopes and dreams in our lives, too. 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! God's strength is available to you and me today—and every day.
As you anticipate the upcoming Easter season, try some of these ideas to prepare your heart for Resurrection Sunday:
• Read the Easter story. Sure, this is familiar to many of you. But read it again, perhaps with others (or even read it aloud) and find some new insights this year. If this is new, turn to the book of Mark (or any of the Gospels) in your Bible and read what God has done.
• Reflect. In your prayer time with God, ask Him what you need to surrender, to let go of and what you need to arise to in your life. Ask Him for the strength to help you.
• Gather with other believers at church on Easter morning. Or find a sunrise service in your area held outdoors, which can be inspiring in new ways.
May the JOY of Easter be with you this season, and always!