Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,--Hebrews 12:1

Friday, April 6, 2012

What Easter Means to This Bereaved Parent

What does Easter mean to you? That's a question that I never really asked myself before. Not that I didn't recognize its importance, but I think I just kind of took it for granted until the past year. I always knew it was set aside to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, but I never really thought much more about it until this year.

So what does this holiday mean to me? It means one day I'll get to see my beautiful daughter again.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us."--Romans 8:18

I still remember what it felt like when we got the news that Amanda had been killed. It was like I'd been hit so hard that I was numb. I didn't feel pain immediately, but more like the very life had been sucked out of me. Stunned, I didn't know what to do or even what to think. What had happened was so unexpected, so improbable, so impossible to even fathom, that those first minutes were filled with no visible emotion. No screams, no tears, no words. Only random thoughts, some rational, others irrational, bouncing around in my head trying to make sense of a world that had just been shattered.

It took me a while to make sense out of my initial reaction. The pain and tears followed within a couple of hours. For three straight days I neither ate nor slept, consumed with thoughts of what I'd lost. At first I thought my initial reaction was due to simple shock, but now I think it went deeper than that. Those feelings and my reactions to them were the signs of feeling completely helpless and completely hopeless.

"but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength."--Isaiah 40:31

Looking back I can see that my failure to protect Amanda from the killer who took her life began to haunt me the instant I heard the news. I consider it my job to protect my family, and thought I was doing that job well, but I had failed miserably. Amanda was murdered and there was nothing I could do to bring her back. I was completely hopeless.

Like I said, I thought I was doing all I could to protect my family. Short of locking them up so they'd never be exposed to danger, or following them everywhere so they never left my sight, I didn't know how I could do a better job. And what really bothered me was, if everything I was doing wasn't enough to protect Amanda, then it really wasn't enough to protect Janice and Courtney either. I was forced to face the fact that the best I could do wasn't enough. The reality slapped me in the face, that I really can't guarantee the safety of those whose care is entrusted to me. I felt completely helpless.

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope."--1 Thessalonians 4:13

I have corresponded with many other bereaved parents and most felt the same hopelessness and helplessness when they lost their child. For many, these feelings persist. Some never find relief.

For me? Though I still grieve, and always will, the helpless and hopeless feelings are gone. It's not that I've gotten over losing Amanda. That will never happen. But I have hope and I now know where to turn for help, and the only reason I can say that is because of what we celebrate on Easter.

The Resurrection.

"5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay."--Matthew 28:5-6

God so loved us that He sent His one and only Son to Earth, to live among man and teach, then to suffer a horrific, agonizingly painful, violent death, and to ascend from the grave and return to Heaven so that we can be forgiven and spend eternity with Him. God sent His only Son to come and bear the burden of our sins, transgressions that by all rights should separate us for eternity from Him. He loves us that much.

And now we celebrate that He is risen, that he went to prepare a place for us, that one day we'll follow Him up that stairway to Heaven and dwell there forever. Our ticket is bought and paid for. All we have to do is pick it up. And everyone who does, will enjoy paradise for eternity.

"14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.--Matthew 28:5-6

That's what gives me hope. That we'll be together again in Heaven with Amanda, forever! She picked up her ticket. She accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior when she was a little girl. Now she's up there and we're down here. But when it's my time to leave this world, I'll join her there and we'll be together forever.

That's what gives me hope, but it also gives me help.

Now I realize that, though I cannot protect others from every physical danger Satan presents here on Earth, I can show them the way to have the same peace of knowing that they too will be with us in Heaven. If I live my life as an example, if I teach them what God's Word teaches me, if I can be a part of helping them pick up their ticket to Heaven, then I can be a tool, used by Jesus to protect them from the ultimate danger of being doomed to Hell.

"Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful."--1 Corinthians 4:2

That's what keeps me going now. That's what keeps me motivated. That's what keeps me alive. That's what overwhelms those initial feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

The help and hope offered through Jesus Christ and the Resurrection, what we celebrate this Easter Sunday, is what keeps me going.

That's what Easter means to me.

If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior, if you're missing the faith, hope, and love written about here, if you want the peace that we as Christians have in our lives, please visit our Got Jesus? page for step-by-step instructions on how to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior.

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