Every pastor needs hope. You can’t live without it. You can’t lead without it, either. And you definitely can’t just preach about hope. You need to embrace it personally.
Over the past year, you’ve likely needed to help many people in your community find hope during the pandemic. After a year of helping other people find hope in one of the most difficult seasons any of us have experienced, you may find yourself in need of hope.
So where do you find hope in the midst of pain?
You get it from the resurrection, the central event in all of history.
Most people don’t understand hope. They think it’s just wishful thinking about the future or optimism. But hope isn’t based on what you think you can do. Hope is what you think God can do. It is based on reality. Hope says, “It’s bad; it’s really, really bad. In fact, I don’t think it’s been any worse than it is right now. But I believe God can bring us through this. I believe God is in control.”
That’s what the Easter story teaches us. It’s never too late for a miracle.
Peter, who experienced the hope of Jesus firsthand that first Easter, wrote some years later: “When [Jesus] did come, it was to lead you to have faith in God, who raised him from death and honored him in a glorious way. That’s why you have put your faith and hope in God” (1 Peter 1:21 CEV).
Because Jesus lives, hope is attainable.
The problem is, most people are putting their hope in the wrong things—success, salary, position, privilege, or power—all things that fluctuate. Even pastors are sometimes misguided in where they place their hope.
Instead, we need to put our hope in something that won’t change—God’s love for us. Mary Magdalene reminds us of this truth. All of her life, she just wanted to be loved, but instead she was abused and misused.
Then one day she met Jesus.
For the first time, she found someone who treated her with dignity and respect, someone who cared more about her than just a desire to use her. Jesus loved her the way she’d always wanted to be loved—unconditionally.
Jesus didn’t just love her. He liberated her. He set her free from habits, hurts, and hang-ups that messed up her life.
But when Jesus was crucified, all of that ended. At least Mary thought it had. To make matters worse, Jesus’ body was gone when she showed up at the tomb on Easter morning.
Mary wept. The only person who had ever loved her unconditionally was dead. She was grieving a loss and felt the situation was hopeless. Mary wept like we do when our dreams are dashed, our relationships are destroyed, and our pain seems unquenchable.
As you make your final preparations for Easter, you might feel hopeless, too. You may be focused on what you think attendance will be on Sunday. Maybe you don’t feel prepared. Maybe you’ve been bombarded with difficult decisions over the past year and you feel like you’ve come up short. You believe your ministry hangs in the balance this weekend.
Maybe you’re facing a personal crisis—like a rocky marriage. Maybe you have a child who has wandered away.
But here’s what we can learn from Mary.
It’s never too late for a miracle.
When Mary first encountered Jesus that first Easter, he called her by name and then asked her two questions. They are the same two questions I want you to ask yourself this Easter.
- What is disappointing me? Maybe it’s a relationship in your life. Maybe it’s a ministry dream that looks like it’ll never come true now.
- What am I looking for to take that pain away? If you answer that question with anything other than God, disappointment will come again.
Pastor, just like he did to Mary, Jesus is looking at you and calling your name.
“I know who you are, I know your name. I care about what you’re going through,” he says. “It’s never too late for a miracle. It’s not hopeless. And I will be your healer.”
As you prepare your heart to minister this Easter, these words are for you—not just for those you’re serving. The Easter story is your story.
No matter what situation you find yourself in, your situation isn’t hopeless. Jesus turned Mary’s situation around. He can do the same for you.
It’s never too late for a miracle.