Why is Believing in Resurrection So Hard?
Recently the Christian church celebrated Easter, the annual Sunday to retell the story of a specific resurrection--ie, empty tomb of Jesus of Nazareth--as a way to name the Universal truth of resurrection: the undeniable reality and phenomenon that something new emerges after the elimination of something old. That new life will always spring up from the ashes of the broken. One thing dies so that another thing can be born. Resurrection: the glimmer of what is to come, resulting from the passing of what was.
But if the pattern of resurrection is so real and reliable (as I believe it is), then why is it so hard to believe?
We routinely evaluate the present darkness, the pain of the moment, and convince ourselves that THIS time the cross really will win. THIS time I’ll actually stay stuck in the dark tomb of Saturday. Sure, I can look back on my life and see all the times where resurrection did indeed showed up, but I’m not getting my hopes up THIS time. (Ever been there?)
In the Gospels we get the gift of reading about followers of Jesus who, after the resurrection, doubted, disbelieved, and denied. So you’re in good company if you too struggle to believe that a new day will come. Believing in resurrection is a vulnerable thing. Opening yourself up to a trust that things can change, get better, be reborn? Scary as hell. And there’s lots of good reasons to hold out
Maybe, like the men disciples toward the women, you struggle to accept resurrection because you don’t believe what people close to you are saying. Have you stopped trusting the voices of those who know and love you? The voices who say, “wake up, the night is over! It’s going to be okay!”
Maybe, like the travelers on the Emmaus road, you struggle to accept resurrection because it looks so very different from what you expected. A relationship ended, a job collapsed, or some other pain befell you, and in your mind you think, “if I ever make it out of this, it will look like ______.” But in your assumptions might you be missing out on the new thing sprouting right in front of you?
Or, maybe, like Thomas, you struggle to believe because you need more proof. More evidence. Which makes sense, because you’ve let your hopes get up in the past only to have them dashed in disappointment. So this time, you vow to wait. You’ll hold out until it’s a sure thing.
Here’s the thing: I think believing in resurrection doesn’t mean you’re saying that everything is fixed, that everything is golden, that everything is whole again. If we wait until there’s no more scars, no more evidence of pain, we could be waiting a really long time. Instead, I think believing in resurrection involves a humble posture of openness and vulnerability where you trust that ahead of you lays wholeness and healing, that out-there awaits restoration, new life, and flourishing.
Resurrection isn’t the noonday sun high in the sky, very obviously out and shining on all it touches. Resurrection is the faintest shimmer of light just peeking beyond the eastern shore, barely illuminating anything above the horizon, yet giving every indication necessary to trust that a new day will come.
So no matter how small (mustard seed size, even), may you hear the voice of your loved ones, may you be open to the unexpected, and may you courageously believe in the power and the reality of resurrection… even when it doesn’t make sense, for “blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”