When Easter feels more like death than resurrection.

As a child, Easter was a main event, mostly involving spring and eating a lot and having my grandparents in town for the weekend. My sister and I put on our new dresses and flowered hats; we wore white gloves to church. Before we piled into the van, my eyes would scan the hallway, seeking the plastic eggs I knew were filled with chocolate, though the egg hunt wasn’t until afternoon.

Jesus was a part of it, but I’d heard the story so many times; resurrection was hardly a surprise. Mostly, I think I was grateful the savior enabled such a holiday—where overnight a new stuffed bunny might show up on the kitchen table in a basket, along with chocolate eggs and turquoise candy-coated malted milk balls.

Perhaps as children, this is all we need; the assurance of newness, joy returning every holiday.

Easter dawned cloudy this year, and the wind felt cold walking from the van into church with my family. I didn’t have a new dress. I didn’t wear white gloves. Afterward, only one grandma came home to celebrate—the other sits in a nursing home barely aware of what’s around her, and my grandpa is years gone.

My head stayed stuck in its land of unease; as an adult, holidays don’t outshine every real-life circumstance. What hurts still hurts.

Then I read about Pakistan, where 69 people died in an explosion by a suicide bomber. Some were Christians, ending their fast and celebrating Easter. Some were families, enjoying fairground rides.

The New York Times video shows blood on the pavement, shining a sick dark red, like a body exploded and left only this stain.

“I wish I hadn’t brought my daughter to the park today,” a man named Kamran Bhatti is quoted in the article. “This is the only recreation we can afford for her. What is her fault?”

Kamran’s daughter is not dead, thank God, but injured in the hospital, like so many others, and if today is a day of resurrection, why does it feel like a day of death?

I cry quick and easy these days, like I have plenty of tears to spare, so I might as well offer them up to strangers in the news. I guess it’s one thing I can be grateful for; when Paul writes in Romans, Weep with those who weep, I do.

My heart hurts for little Pakistani girls in Easter outfits, interrupted in their day at the park; for their fathers and mothers feeling the injustice of it; for the fact that this world’s suffering is so much greater than mine, yet I feel a kind of solidarity—that we all have pain; we are all breaking the world in every way it can be broken.

I don’t know what to say to all this death, all this pain on Easter Sunday. He is risen indeed! certainly seems like the wrong response. But if a messy, deadly Easter means anything, it means we are a world in need of repair, and not just on a small, there’s-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel scale. We need big-scale, Jesus changing everything repair. This is the sort of thing Isaiah had a gift for capturing in his prophetic poetry, written in the voice of the Lord:

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

This passage was in the Holy Week readings from the Revised Common Lectionary, and it seems a fitting reminder that Easter isn’t just about some personal redemption. It is far too light a thing for God’s salvation to be for any one person or any one tribe. No, he is bringing healing and wholeness and light to the whole world.

Today, resurrection sounds unlikely—distant, ridiculous, and perhaps even offensive to those laying family or friends in the ground. So we weep with those who weep.

But it’s true too that great brokenness calls for great, ridiculous hope–hope for the whole world.

Participating in that hope might also might mean living like we believe the words that Jesus said, recognizing that we’re all in this together. There is no Other. We on this earth are all humans, made of sacred cells, woven in secret. Our response to one another’s pain must be love. Our response to fear and terrorism must be love: loving our enemies, long suffering, as Jesus beaten and hanging on the cross, forgiving anyway.

And maybe, maybe resurrection is on its way.


One thought on “When Easter feels more like death than resurrection.

  1. Joel

    As an adult I’ve struggled with the secularism put on Easter (what does a bunny have to do with the cross anyway?). I see the death and suffering and it just contrasts so heavily with the resurrecrion, but it’s online with what happened 3 days prior to him walking out of tomb. I think it’s as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15, the resurrection gives us hope past death and pain in this world and so we strive for that, while weeping with those who weep, walking with others as they carry their own cross.


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