by Jenna Olson Popp
“Jesus has overcome the power of death. God has conquered death through death, finding victory over the grave. We are to fear death no more.”
We’ve all heard something like these words before, often after the resurrection. Jesus has died, but the tomb has been opened. Hallelujah.
But it’s not Easter yet. So let me be real about how I am wrestling with what any of this means.
As everyone knows, we humans often forget the power of death, until that moment when we face it head on. Hence why we need a whole church service to remind us of our dust-ness. But when those moments arrive, oh how quickly we are reminded of our mortality and the fragility of life. Its brute force and might can take a sunny spring day and make it cloudy. It can taint every move you make as you question when your moment will come. It can make a bench at a hospital a “good enough” place to rest for the night.
Death has a lot of power.
Just think about it. Death is so powerful that we tell people to sit down when we’re about to tell them bad news. It literally makes our legs weak.
And so when we talk about God overcoming this power, and Jesus dying so that we may never die again, what does that actually mean?
Because when I’m sitting in the ICU wondering if my 30-year-old cousin is going to get through this battle or if his body will reach its final limits, I have no idea what overcoming this mighty power looks like. It seems like death is having the loudest and final say in it all.
I’m of the belief that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person, but that doesn’t make it any less shocking, especially when it’s unexpected, sudden, or much too early. It doesn’t help when you start questioning its timing and whether the time in our life is enough.
So when you’re there, in that place where time slows down and your control on life is gone, what does it mean for God to have victory over the grave? What does that look like?
Right now, I’m not sure. I can say the words, and I know the theology behind them, but it seems so distant from my soul. These words just seem like another meaningless cliché.
But I do know that God is with me in my not knowing. I do know that God is with my family today. I know that God was with my cousin in the car. I know that God was with him in his final breaths. I know God will be with his family as they begin life without him. And I know that God is with me when I think that death is more powerful.
And maybe that’s all the victory I can find right now.
There’s a fine line between being afraid of death and using the reality of your mortality as a catalyst toward present and divine living.
Today, I am struggling to find this fine line. But I know God is with me as I search.