Living a cycle of pain and victory as a Christian, can be greatly discouraging. It feels like a roller coaster. It’s a long, uncomfortable bumpy donkey ride which feels like there’s no destination in sight. One minute, I get a sign from God and feel my life is finally going in the right direction… and the next minute, my world comes crashing down in disaster. The doubts, fears, and deep discouragement of depression set in, and suddenly I’m starting all over.
Why am I writing about depression on Palm Sunday? Because my stress is weighing heavily on me today, with problems that seem to have no answers; at least not with the solutions I want. But I got to thinking about something my pastor told me a couple weeks ago. He agreed that my life is indeed difficult; adding that it is because I have lived in a constant cycle of: pain, victory, pain, victory… We prayed and asked God to break this cycle; the pain part, not the victory part!
Easter is my favorite holiday. Spring is my favorite season. But every year the pain comes anyway, and today, it has just hung especially thick in the air. I’m wanting to rejoice, for Palm Sunday is the day that “Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written: ‘Do not be afraid, Daughter Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt‘ ” (Jn. 12:14-15 NIV). Jesus rode through Bethlehem on a donkey, while people waved palm fronds and called him King! This is one of my most favorite bible stories from since I was a little girl. My Jesus was finally being recognized as a good guy, the best guy, The Godly King he was created to be!
Jesus had pain, victory, pain, victory cycles too. He’d already been through so much pain, rejection and unjust hate by people who should have loved him as if they were his brothers and sisters. He was rejected. They lied about him, gossiped, and slandered his name. Can you relate? I can; even to this day! It was even more difficult for Jesus; because as The Son of God, he knew that much more pain was waiting for him straight up ahead… death by crucifixion, filled with unimaginable pain and suffering. Jesus knew he was going to die: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die” (Jn. 12:32 NIV).
But Jesus didn’t live in discouragement. He chose joy; the joy of the moment, the joy of knowing he was the Son of God, the joy of knowing how many human lives would be saved because of his living sacrifice. Jesus chose to live in the joyful victory of Palm Sunday. He smiled and waved and rejoiced in the love being freely offered by God’s people, even if the moment was fleeting. Many of us would call it “having a good attitude.” But there’s more. Jesus wholly trusted God. So even though he’d already lived through pain and victory, and knew more was coming; Jesus also realized that following God meant victory… ending with the saving of millions of souls.
Dark days would follow the beauty of Palm Sunday, but ultimately Jesus would be not only King of the Jews, but be risen from the dead to become King of Heaven and Earth! The Bible lets us know that as Christians, we will also suffer. Enduring painful trials allows us to walk the path Jesus walked, as we seek to do God’s Will above our own. It’s not easy, but it means we are walking away from both our own sin and the sin of others. We are walking towards victory. “So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin” (1Pet. 4:1).
Identifying with Jesus helps us understand some of what he went through to save our souls from Hell. We can then see how Jesus uses our own personal sacrifices to help save the souls of others. Like Jesus, we will also have victories on earth, and we will rejoice when our destination ends in an everlasting, eternal victory in Christ Jesus.
The silver lining of suffering with Jesus, is that we also reap the amazing rewards and promises which come from being children of God! So, those of us struggling with sadness or discouragement, can go ahead and wave our palm fronds in the air. Because if we love Jesus, it is safe to rejoice! We will continue to have victories, in spite of the pain. God promises victory as our eternal end destination. “But rejoice isasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1Pet. 4:13).
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him shouting,
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Blessed is the king of Israel’ (Jn. 12:12-13)!