EASTER SUNDAY, FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE LORD
April 9, 2023
Acts 10:34, 37-43
Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Ben Sasse, a former senator from Nebraska, wrote a book entitled “Them,” and subtitled it, “Why we hate each other — and how to heal.” In the book, he considers how we all search for happiness in life, and then he lists what has been discovered toward finding it. He writes:
Social scientists have identified four primary drivers of human happiness, which we can put in the form of four questions:
- Do you have family you love, and who love you?
- Do you have friends you trust and confide in?
- Do you have work that matters — callings that benefit your neighbors?
- Do you have a world view that can make sense of suffering and death?
Think of these four components as the legs of a chair. When all four are in place, things are sturdy. When one goes missing, your happiness begins to wobble.
It is Sasse’s fourth need that surprises me as a condition to find happiness — the need to have a worldview that can make sense of suffering and death.
All the major religions of the world offer a worldview that addresses our questions about the whys and wherefores of suffering and death. It is what Christians around the world celebrate during the days of this most holy week that culminates in the celebration of Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection of the Lord. The Resurrection of Jesus proclaims to the world that life does not end in death, but rather that death ends in life. Whoever seeks to save one’s life will lose it, and whoever is willing to lose one’s life will save it, teaches Jesus. The Resurrection of Jesus begins to make sense of suffering and death, and how they can be doorways to the fullness of life.
Faith does not eliminate suffering. It is part of the human condition and will always be with us. Of its nature, life is fragile. Life does not always unfold as we might wish. Life is marred by human selfishness. As long as there is free will and human freedom, there will be suffering. Yet, our commitment to live life with love for others and so journey through the struggle rather than run from it, all of that brings us to richer and fuller life.
Our willingness to love family and friends, in spite of the pains that such love often entails, makes our lives worthwhile. Our decision to care about those in need brings meaning to our existence. Our willingness to love even when individuals seem to us to be unlovable transforms life and enables God to usher in a new heaven and a new earth. All that is good in life is never brought about without much pain and suffering, and conversely without pain and suffering what is good in life never seems to happen. It is in our participation in the Resurrection of Jesus that we find meaning in suffering and death.
None of that makes suffering a good thing. We would never choose to suffer. Nevertheless, suffering becomes the doorway to wisdom, and perhaps the only way to wisdom. Those who do not suffer seem to be without the wisdom to negotiate life with meaning. Our faith is rooted in such a meaning of suffering and death.
A friend of mine will often comment on why he thinks many people no longer come to church. He says they tell him they find it difficult or even impossible to believe in a God who allows great evil to persist in life. If God is truly good, they say, God would step in when nations war against one another and slaughter innocent people. If there is a good God, why doesn’t God stop such things, they wonder? Neither can they understand why people die prematurely — children, and young parents who are needed by their families. Either God is not good or God is not God, they will say. Consequently, they choose not to believe. It would seem that a worldview that makes sense of suffering and death has not been found by those who decide to not believe in God. As a result, it seems that many wander somewhat aimlessly, seeking something (happiness perhaps) without knowing what it is they seek.
For people of faith, the Resurrection of Jesus is a true gift, not simply because it gives us a worldview that makes sense of suffering and death, not simply because it may be one of the four legs of happiness, but rather because it has become our way and our truth and our life.
He is risen!
Do the four drivers of human happiness mentioned by social scientists ring true for you? Would you add any others?
Does suffering and death have any meaning for you?