Last Sunday we returned to a full capacity worship service at our ACOP church in Dryden. The excitement was palpable. After many long months of adapted worship services, navigating mandates as a community, and dealing with the range of emotionally-charged and political issues related to the pandemic, it was wonderful to gather together in greater numbers for corporate worship of our Lord.
As Pentecostals, we are particularly adept at joyful praise. We welcome the moving of the Spirit, and pray for spiritual renewal and refreshing as we join together each Lord’s Day.
Yet the last two years can serve us well by reminding us that our Christian hope is grounded not in our circumstances nor the latest spiritual mountaintop experience.
Neither is our hope measured by our attendance, our livestream audience, or other marketing success metrics. Our hope, as it has always been, is founded in the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
And that Easter hope–the hope of God breaking through with his healing love, resurrection power, and redemptive grace–is a hope that first arrived in the difficult dread and sorrow of Good Friday.
Our hope as Christians is not about ignoring suffering or difficulty, sadness or sorrow. Our hope is present and alive, even as we are honest about the tragedy of our lives (or the shared communal grief of the last two years).
Lamentations 3:20-24 (ESV) demonstrates that ‘movement of resurrection’ from sorrow to hope:
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
Lamentations describes a faithful believer in God who is also suffering with a mental health challenge, likely depression.
The text does not say to ignore, placate or ‘think positively’ out of depression or anxiety. Rather, Scripture calls us to bring our lament before God. We need to make space for healthy lamenting in our lives individually and in our worship services corporately.
Biblical spirituality is not a self-help strategy, but a summons to acknowledge our brokenness before God: to ‘preach to ourselves’ about the faithfulness of God. We recall God’s mercy, his steadfast, covenantal love toward us. But such hope resonates more deeply when we also acknowledge the depth of our need of God.
As we remember what is true, our soul shifts from being ‘bowed down’ in vs. 20 to gazing upward in worship once again in vs. 24. This sort of shift isn’t always easy. It requires hearing and remembering the goodness of God. It requires recalling and being remembered (put back together) by the true story of the Gospel: that night has passed and the day lies before us. That winter has ended and spring has come. That Aslan is on the move. That the death of Good Friday is finally over, and the joy and life of Easter Sunday has dawned.
We need the community of saints to speak and recall and sing and write and paint and dance and herald this hope to a weary and war-torn world. We need Christians in every sphere and sector of society–in the church, the academy, the marketplace, and the home–who can embody such a hope. Who can embody it even as they struggle. Who can say, “Yes, I’m suffering just like you. Yes, there are moments where I truly struggle. But listen: I also know that God is faithful. And my hope is not in vague optimism, but in the assurance of Christ’s resurrection, the Father’s faithful character, and the indwelling comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.”
And may this also be: that for the many of us who are weary with the mantle of church leadership, that we too would hear that resurrection summons. Like Mary, who finds herself weeping in the garden of God’s new creation, may we also hear the voice of the Gardener who knows and speaks our names: summoning us to new life–to the hope we have in the One who is making all things new and will wipe every tear from our eyes.
Nikolas Amodeo lives with his wife, Sarah, and their four boys in Dryden, Ontario.
Nik has served as the lead pastor of Dryden Full Gospel Church since 2012. He holds a bachelor of biblical studies from Eston College and a master of arts in theological studies from Regent College.
Nik is an ordained minister of the Apostolic Church of Pentecost of Canada and is passionate about teaching the Bible and spiritual formation.