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Hold on to enduring hope

Tulip in the snow

Reflecting on Easter, Faith Timmons encourages us to trust in the resurrection hope we find in Jesus Christ when we experience fear and uncertainty.

Michigan Conference Communications

There’s something refreshing and exciting about the first signs of spring. It’s like the world around us comes to life as winter thaws. But too soon of a start can be discouraging for those who are worried about flowers.

My perennials started peeking out of the soil as early as January. What if they bloom, only to freeze when it snows again? The timing seemed off, and it was! By Holy Week, the vibrant green leaves of our tulips and daffodils were on display. The ground, however, was covered by about two inches of snow.

How will they survive? Will they die, I wondered. Why didn’t I cover them carefully after my first inkling that the frigid cold would return? Thankfully, there isn’t much to worry about in the long term. These hardy bulbs are known to return year after year. If the budding flowers don’t make it, they’ll return next spring, hopefully bursting forth with color!

Flowers are temporary, anyway. 1 Peter 1:24 notes how they bloom, and then they’re gone. Bulbs revive. Bulbs typically outlive above-ground conditions that may kill off flowers. Yet, growing bulbs is a commitment that requires delayed gratification. Once planted, it’ll be nine months before you see any signs of life. Thankfully, blooms appear annually when we crave color the most. That long-term investment proves to be worth it, again and again.

The same is true of our faith in the risen Christ despite many disturbing circumstances in the world around us. Celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and the hope of eternal life offers refreshing renewal. As we embrace the promise of life after death, we are reminded that even situations with little to no evidence of potential for resolution have an ultimate solution. The answer lies in Jesus Christ.

He conquered death when he rose from the grave. He appeared alive again to men who were hiding in fear after his crucifixion. His return proved that even death and the grave could not hold him. No woes are ultimately more threatening and final than those two. Yet, Jesus rose to life, offering every disciple the same promise. That is the sentiment of these lyrics of the hymn “My Hope Is Built”:

When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
my anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood
support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
he then is all my hope and stay.

Edward Mote penned these lyrics as a young teen and shared them with the dying wife of a close friend. They offered her precious peace, and her response gave Edward strong encouragement. He finished the entire song within hours and soon had it published. Amazingly, a woman on her deathbed helped ensure the birth of this hymn that lives on over 200 years later. Our Christian faith offers enduring hope.

It wasn’t impending death but anxiety over a new life that troubled Gloria Gaither. As a way of self-soothing, she sat down and wrote. What flowed from her heart were comforting lyrics now known as the popular hymn “Because He Lives.” She felt overwhelmed by the prospects of raising her newborn son amid the turmoil and unrest of the 1970s. She penned these lyrics while holding an infant in her arms:

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
and feel the pride and joy he gives;
but greater still the calm assurance,
this child can face uncertain days because he lives.

Holding fast to her faith is how Gloria Gaither fought off nearly overwhelming fears about the future. She found solace in singing when worry threatened to stymie her joy. She found peace by considering God’s faithfulness in the past. Concerns loomed over present circumstances in the world around her, so she clung to what was rooted deep within her heart. Not knowing what tomorrow had in store, she had to take a back seat to her faith and trust in the One who holds the future:

God sent his son, they called him Jesus;
he came to love, heal, and forgive;
he lived and died to buy my pardon,
an empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Gloria told herself: “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.”

These words are more than the sentiments of a famous songwriter and singer. They are a promise noted in the Gospel of John 14:19: “Because I live, you also will live” (NRSVUE). Knowing that God’s spirit lives in us means that we have something and someone deep within that cannot be terminated or threatened by what we see and experience around us.

Similarly, after a stretch of unseasonably warm weather throughout parts of Michigan this past winter, I was disappointed when a cold snap resurged! Being a pastor on full disability leaves me with fewer exciting projects than I would like. Gardening is one. As a result, I was a bit discouraged. I knew our tulips might wither and die before spring even got here.

However, I also understand that this will not affect, in the least, that which lasts! Bulbs are plants that live underground. Only portions of the plant visibly emerge as blooms for a brief season each year. These bright, beautiful flowers offer us signs of life in the spring. However, the complete life cycle of a plant, from beginning to end, lies in the bulb itself. Bulbs live and grow from their root system. Proper planting, followed by continued care, enables them to thrive and reemerge annually in their full beauty. Frost, sleet, snow, ice, flooding, and hail only pose temporary threats to the beautiful blooms that many of us enjoy. Nonetheless, bulbs can and usually do remain fully alive, with or without a blooming season.

May your faith remain alive and well, rooted in Christ! I pray that you find peace by looking beyond your present problems to that which is everlasting. Please remember these words Paul gave to the church in Rome: “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

It may not be easy, but it is possible as we hold tight to Jesus’ promise: “I have said this to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution, but take courage: I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33). Nothing in this life can take away from that which lives on eternally in Christ. I know that the gladness gained from seeing bright, beautiful tulips in the yard on Easter morning isn’t huge compared to the central message of Resurrection Sunday. However, when they don’t emerge, I feel better knowing that my flower bulbs live on, unaffected and unharmed, even as frigid winds freeze the colorful flowers I long to see.

Similarly, I pray that the spirit of peace will protect and surround all our hearts. Let’s rejoice in knowing that the best return on our spiritual investment is already a sure thing when we lay up for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Our treasure comes through God’s grace, Jesus Christ. Our reward is new life through salvation. We can take heart in knowing that we are rooted and built up in him (Colossians 2:7; Romans 11). Remember, the fullness of life is safely rooted in the planted bulb; it is not determined merely by evaluating the state of short-lived flowers, nor thankfully, the lack thereof.

Last Updated on April 4, 2024

The Michigan Conference