Alex Kondratev

Sufferer, Easter is for You

Easter is a holiday you can feel in the air. It comes right when the cold weather has made its final stand. Victory! The sunshine and warmer weather has sent those cold, dark clouds back to where they came from (except for in New York, I don’t know when your warm is coming, but it is, right? Yea, it has to, hold on!) Flowers start to blossom, store fronts change from jackets to swim suits, winter snow scenes to spring bouquets—it’s here. For most this is a season of excitement and anticipation, a celebration of new life both physically and spiritually. But for the sufferer, it’s yet another season where the absence of our loved one is felt deep within. Another holiday that we ache to celebrate the joy of life with ALL of our family. Even though I am happily remarried to an amazing man, this holiday hits me especially hard each year. My late husband John-Michael loved Easter. He sang on Easter morning like he had won the Mega Millions, because in light of the cross, he knew he had won. Oh, how I long for the day when I can sing with him again of the triumph of Easter. Don’t you, my suffering friend? How badly do you want to sing knowing that all the bad has been wiped away and that full restoration has finally come? I want it so bad, but here we are, stuck in the middle. Somewhere between the Easter baskets and egg hunts, Lent devotionals, and church celebrations, we’re tired and don’t yet fully feel the triumph of Easter. The winter may have passed, but the final frost on our soul hasn’t seemed to melt quite yet.

Widow, sufferer, Easter is for you. I know it because the coming of the first Easter must have felt a lot the same for the disciples. They had left everything to follow Jesus. They planted all their stakes and dreams in him. They believed that their season of long suffering would lead to a triumphant victory here on Earth. They didn’t expect the cross, they didn’t expect death. They were certain that he was going to break down the temple and rebuild it, in front of their very eyes. Their idea of restoration looked so much different than what God had in mind. Even when told by Jesus that he would die and rise again (Matthew 20:17-19), they didn’t understand, thinking that they wouldn’t suffer quite that much, and surely neither would the Son of God. But as Good Friday hit, they were stunned. Jesus died. All their dreams and plans were destroyed. The death of Jesus shook the disciples so much that they locked themselves in a home for fear that everything they believed could have been wrong (John 20:19). They had no idea what to do next, this wasn’t the life they thought they signed up for. We can say that again, this wasn’t the life we thought we signed up for.

Like the disciples, we cannot comprehend the full meaning of the suffering we are going through. I too have sat in the quiet of my home thinking, sometimes screaming, “WHAT am I going to do next?!” I cannot give you a concrete answer as to why my beloved, funny, young, full-of-life, late husband is not with me to celebrate Easter this year. Even with warnings in scripture that promise suffering here on Earth, I couldn’t have fathomed the heartache that could come from it. But, hold on, it’s what happened next in the disciple’s lives that changed the story for them and changed the story for you and me—completely, forever! All the sufferers, and honestly, all the Earth, hinges on what happened next. At the moment of complete darkness, complete chaos, and complete hopelessness, enters our Savior…

“PEACE TO YOU!” Luke 24:36

Jesus was alive. Jesus rose from the dead. JESUS CONQUERED DEATH. And what are his first words to them? Peace. My dear friends, peace. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see…” Luke 24:38-39. It was him. Can you imagine the relief they must have felt? Death was no longer the final answer. There was someone greater, and he faced the curse of death and conquered it for us. This was a triumphant victory.

It is just like Jesus to meet us with hope and promise in the midst of confusion.

“Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it.” (Nicholas Wolterstorff)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

This Easter, the promise of the resurrection is for you. The cross declares that Jesus has tasted death for you so that it doesn’t have to be the final word for you, for your kids, or for your life. In the place of havoc Jesus has offered peace. No matter what this broken world throws at you, no matter the plots Satan has to destroy, take heart, Jesus has overcome them all. You may not be singing with flowers in your hair, you may very well be in the stillness of your home, holding onto that last shred of hope that victory is coming. It is. It has. You can’t see fully right now what restoration will look like, but in Christ you will. In Christ your hope is as rock solid as the defeat of winter and the restoration of spring.

 

To the Widow’s Mother-in-law by Alex Kondratev

Dear Mom (in-law),

We have both lost someone that is irreplaceable in our lives. You a son, the one you carried in your womb for nine months, the one you brought into this world, the baby you held in your arms, had inside jokes with, the one who called you mommy and counted on you for so many years. The one you raised into the man I love—he is who I love in many ways because of you. And me a husband, the one I built a life with and shaped my world around, the one who held my hand in all the joys and sorrows of life, the man that I vowed my all to, to become one with. Our grief is so deep because this man was a part of us and now he is gone. We grieve many of the same things—his laugh, his hugs, his jokes and his talents, but in the same breath, our grief is vastly different. I know we both feel that lonely chasm deep within our bones.

In the days of living out this unexpected plan of God, I won’t always love you the way your son had a way of loving you, after all I’m not him. And I know you won’t always be able to love me in the ways he loved me, after all you’re not him. But, I do believe that we have enough of that man pulsing through our veins to be there for one another in a way that no one else can.

Mom, there is no light way to put this, we will face hard days, months and years ahead. We will each have to make decisions that we never thought we would have to make. Decisions that will impact us and change us, and for better, and sometimes worse, we won’t look the same as we used to. Tears will often take the place of laughter in our homes and family dinners will feel almost impossible. So here we are, at a fork in the road. We can hug each other and part ways with tears in our eyes leaving each to our own grief battle or like Naomi and Ruth, when faced with the death blow of son and husband, we can take the much harder road that leads to seeing beauty that comes only from winning battles of love, trust, and service.

Today, let’s choose to take the harder path, we will probably have to choose that tomorrow…and the next day too, but I believe God will honor it.  Promises will be hard to keep while God is putting our lives back together, so I present these needs and resolutions to you. Please know, my resolutions to you are not exhaustive and are not conditional on you meeting my needs. When you and I fail to meet these needs and fulfill these resolutions, because we inevitably will, the promise of grace will always stand.

I need…

  • Your prayers.
  • Remind me that the Gospel is true—even now, even in the pain.
  • Open communication—the opportunity to admit that something you have done has hurt me.
  • Space to grieve— If I don’t call or text back it doesn’t mean I don’t care.
  • Respect—I’ve got so many decisions to make for myself (and my kids), please respect me as head, like you would have for your son leading our relationship/family.
  • Connection—be present with me (and your grandkids).
  • Acceptance—If God brings the opportunity for love again, please don’t check out of my life.
  • Love—I’m your family forever.

I resolve…

  • To pray for you.
  • To remind you that the Gospel is true—even now, even in the pain.
  • To remember and celebrate my late husband, your son, and to remember that this will look different for each of us.
  • To give the benefit of the doubt—I trust that the things you do that have hurt me aren’t done specifically to hurt me, but because you are grieving.
  • To be humble—if I’ve hurt you, I want to apologize.
  • To connect—You’ve already lost a son, don’t worry, you won’t lose me (or my kids).
  • To be patient and then patient again.
  • To be considerate—of your grief, of how I choose to honor my late husband, of how I choose to move forward, of what I post on social media.
  • To be transparent—if God brings the opportunity for love again, I’ll tell you and be gentle in doing so.
  • To talk it out—for all the things that come our way (grief differences, family celebrations, anniversaries, new relationships…) let’s talk it out.
  • To love you—you’re my family forever.

Mom, I endeavor to honor these resolutions because I want to honor you, but more than that, I want to honor and trust God. In Ruth 2:10-12, Ruth received a blessing from Boaz, but also from God himself. She received this blessing because of all she had done for her mother-in-law, but that wasn’t all, “The Lord repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!” She received this blessing because she entrusted herself to the Lord when all around her was foreign and uncertain. She believed that God had a plan for her relationships and her life. There is so much purpose in our relationship, Mom. I, like Ruth, choose to believe that this mysterious road called grief will be better walked by your side than alone.

Love,

Your Daughter (in-law)