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God Desires Your Joy: Entering Into Easter

St. John Paul II once said, “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”

He’s hinting at one of the greatest strengths of our faith: joy. The witness of the Christian faith relies on this joy, this proclamation of “hallelujah” at all times. It reaches deeper than mere worldly happiness. It sets us apart from those who don’t know Christ’s love. It stems, ultimately, from hope in Christ’s promises, and faith that — no matter how gloomy our next steps may seem — He will protect us.

But here’s the thing: life is hard. We could find reasons to despair on every corner — the latest school shooting, the avoidable car accident, the terrible natural disaster… Even trivial things can bring down our happiness: stress at school or work, tension in relationships, doubt or difficulties in our prayer. We live in a fallen world, not a perfect one yet, and with that comes sadness. It’s only human to feel it.

So, how do we avoid “abandoning ourselves to despair,” especially in this time of celebrating Christ’s resurrection? How can we truly live the Christian message of joy every day when there are so many things to be sad about?

The Good and the Bad

Perhaps St. JP2’s quote seems a bit too idealistic to us. Maybe we’re tempted to feel like JP2 “just wouldn’t understand,” like maybe he was too holy to know this struggle.

Well, although indeed saintly, he knows hurt, too. His entire family had died before he even entered young adulthood. He lived through Nazi and Communist occupation. He went to seminary in secret, in a time when his fellow seminarians died at the hands of the Nazi regime. People tried to kill him multiple times. And despite this all (and more), he still stood by his word that joy would have the last say. He knew the bad but chose to rejoice nonetheless, to see even the worst atrocities in light of Christ’s Resurrection. That is, after all, where he learned it.

Think about the Easter season. There would be no reason to rejoice if Jesus had not first been betrayed, tortured, abandoned, and crucified. He suffered the worst of deaths, the most intense of isolations, and yet we joyfully proclaim Jesus Crucified today. How can this paradox exist?

There is bad in the world, but God has proven that no tragedy can overpower His ultimate victory. Our suffering in this world will soon be but a blink of an eye when we witness the span of eternity. The mere thought of His ultimate victory over these crosses in our life is reason enough to persevere in hope and to cling tightly to faith. Only these acts of trusting His promises can bring us a joy that cannot be shaken by the trials we face.

Why Have You Abandoned Me?

If ever you feel tempted to frown, if the news headlines are too much, or if your day was just plain bad… look to Jesus for joy.

What does this mean concretely? A good starting place is to pray with Psalm 22. This psalm was well known to Jews in Jesus’ time, so well known that He quoted it from the Cross: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

Taken alone, this sentence seems to convey the despair that St. JP2 warns against…but read the Psalm in full. From the Cross, Jesus began Psalm 22, knowing that every passerby would remember how it ultimately concludes…

It details how far from God the author feels, how they had trusted in God but now were alone and seemingly forgotten. They list their troubles and trials, their fears and humiliations. And then… there is no happy ending. God does not fix everything for that person with a snap of His fingers. Rather, the author declares, “rescue me,” an act of pure trust and dependence on God. Then, amid this cry for deliverance, a beautiful thing happens: a psalm of mourning becomes one of praise.

“I will declare your name to my people,” the psalm continues, encouraging “all descendants of Jacob” to honor Him, to trust in His promises. “All the ends of the earth,” the author writes, “will remember and turn to the Lord,” remembering how He has delivered them.

When Jesus spoke these words from the Cross, He was revealing His spirit of praise and giving us an example to follow. When we face our crosses, we, too, should make these words our own. Amid His suffering, before He had entered into the Resurrection, Jesus prayed praise to His Father. Yes, He felt pain. Yes, He felt abandoned. But He reminded Himself of the truths of God’s promises. He chose to praise Him. It didn’t take away the pain, but it united it to God.

Even though the suffering had not yet ended, and the Resurrection was still three days away, Jesus trusted in God enough to turn even His bitter sorrow into a proclamation of praise. And therein lies our answer of how to choose joy in our own lives: when all we see is Calvary, like Christ, still we must praise Him.

Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen! Alleluia! There is reason to rejoice this Easter–and every day. But when rejoicing is harder, it’s okay. We’re only human; we feel sorrow just as Jesus did. The key? We must not stay there. There is no challenge too great for our Lord. There is no trial Jesus has not already borne on the Cross. And there is no brokenness that cannot be redeemed by the Resurrection. Christ makes all things new.

Let Him make your heart new this Easter season. Let that joy permeate into every aspect of your life. When it’s easy, praise Him. When it’s hard, praise Him. Sing the hallelujah song loudly toward the God whose promises of eternal joy are trustworthy.

About the Author

Faith Noah

Howdy, I'm Faith and I'm an avid fan of chocolate chip cookies, golden retrievers, and St. John Paul II. I enjoy spending time outside (kayaking, climbing, biking, you name it!). I nerd out on neuroscience, bioethics, and anything related to NCIS or the MCU. But at the end of the day, you'll find me either engaging in sugar-induced fits of hyperactivity or having a deep stimulating theological discussion--one extreme or the other. Fun fact: my whole name (together) is in the Bible. Hebrews 11:7. No big deal.

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