Relief comes in many shapes and sizes. Tired teachers sign off from Zoom calls with a satisfied fatigue on Fridays. College students nearly skip with levity and relief when they turn in finals and term papers. Families sigh in relief and smile in gratitude when results from biopsies come back negative. The entire Pacific Northwest danced with relief when rain fell to dissipate the heaviness of fire-filled air.
The nature of the burden and the length of time it has been borne appropriately shape the extent of corresponding relief when the burden has been finally lifted.
I am certain Noah waited with bated breath when he sent out the dove, hoping for signs of habitable earth after weeks of unprecedented flooding. When the dove came back bearing a branch, I imagine there were shouts of relief from the remnant of humanity who had been trapped with animals in a floating zoo. Abraham and Sarah laughed in relief when they finally held Isaac, their long-awaited, promised son. God’s people, long-accustomed to silence after the last words from the prophet Malachi, likely ran in relief to the shores of the Jordan to listen to John the Baptizer. Simeon and Anna, whose eyes were long-strained in search of the promised Messiah, looked upon Jesus through tears of relief.
But all of these moments of real relief pale in comparison to the relief of the resurrection. The Marys went to the tomb of their beloved Jesus despairing and helpless, convinced their hopes of Him being the Messiah were dashed. Despite the fact that he had healed and saved others, Jesus of Nazareth had not been healed, but harmed. The body of their beloved who had brought life and light wherever he went was sealed in a dark, dank tomb, along with their hopes.
All the collective moments of relief from all the heavy burdens of humanity ought to be like a feather in the scales compared to the relief of the resurrection. Death does not have the last word. The fear of death that had dogged the steps of humanity since Adam and Eve were ushered out of the garden Eden was lifted with the body of Christ.
As the writer of Hebrews so clearly stated to the Jewish believers, “through the power of death,” Jesus “delivered “all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The fuzzy, far-off promises of the prophet Isaiah, “He will swallow up death forever (Isaiah 25:8) came into clear focus that morning when the grave clothes were folded and vacant.
Unfortunately, we tend to forget the relief that comes from the resurrection of Christ. The relief that is meant to enliven our every step toward glory and the levity of hope that is meant to lighten our souls in the most grave situations are lost on most of us. We are so focused on our present circumstances and the problems that weigh on us presently, that we tend to forget that our Christ has conquered death and risen up underneath it, lifting our burdens with himself.
We find ourselves looking forward to smaller sighs of relief like the weekend, the end of the election season, and an upcoming vacation, and it is right to enjoy these moments of rest. However, we don’t have to swim the seas of dread, waiting for tiny islands of relief. The rock solid reality of the resurrection is meant to be a bridge of relief that enables all of our days. The resurrected Christ who stood up from the tomb is meant to help us bear up under our own burdens.
I don’t know the exact burdens you carry today, but I know that they are heavy and hard. I know that we are a weary people in a weary land during a wearisome time. I know that it feels like the weights are crushing the ever-living life out of us. But that is not the end of the story. The resurrected and reigning Christ has given is the downpayment for the the coming day of great relief. With the psalmist we can say with confidence, “Blessed be the Lord who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19, NASB).