On this very special Easter Sunday, we welcome our dear friend, Pepper Helms, to the Overflow blog. Pepper and her family have endured heartaches that are hard to even imagine, but she is a woman with her eyes focused on Jesus and hanging on to Him with all she has in her. She is warm and loving and through the tragedies, she has learned how to go into the hard and difficulty places with those around her that are hurting. Pepper is part of the Overflow ministry team and has a special heart to comfort those walking in similar life losses. If you are a widow or have suffered the loss of a beloved child and struggling to put the pieces of life together, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can pray for you and your family.
A Disappointing Easter…….. By Pepper Helms
Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? How can Easter be disappointing? I really do love Easter, but it is bittersweet for me. The anxiety of the Easter season begins with the mention of Lent, starts escalating when I see the first pastel colored candies on the grocery store shelves, and reaches its peak with Easter egg hunts and children in their new Easter best.
This burden began on Easter morning in 2001 when my husband wheeled me into the children’s hospital in Atlanta where our two-year-old daughter, Hannah, lay in a coma after suffering a severe skull fracture six days prior. My three children and I had been at a local park when a pine tree branch broke off a dead tree, fell 40 feet, and hit me on the leg and Hannah on the head as she was going down the slide. Our sweet little girl spent the first few days hovering between life and death, but on the seventh day, Easter morning, I think we all were anticipating a miraculous healing. She had made it this far and, after all, it was Easter, a day marked by a dramatic historical resurrection. What a great story it would be!
But it was not to be—at least not an earthly healing. Hannah’s neurosurgeon met us in the PICU waiting room and explained that had she shown no brain activity for many hours and that, barring a miracle, she wasn’t going to come back to us. He then proceeded to graciously ask us about organ donation, to which we agreed.
Talk about being hit in the gut. After watching our baby lay sweetly “sleeping” and surviving the first 24 hours, then 48, then 72, and even surviving a stroke somewhere in between, we thought she was coming out of the woods. Instead, she crept deeper still.
Have you been there? After an initial devastating shock, you experience a little hope start to bubble up, only to be let down again? That almost seems cruel, doesn’t it? You just want to cut to the chase. But most of the time, it involves a lot of waiting, a lot prayer and a whole lot of unknowns. There have been many times I haven’t even wanted to pray because I didn’t want to be disappointed. God knows this about me and, many times, has given me this verse:
“And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (NLT) Romans 5:5
We think in order to experience God’s blessings and love that He must say yes to our prayers. But many times, He says no. It looks disappointing. In fact, it is disappointing – even devastating. Think of the cross; how could the cross possibly be the best solution? I think it is safe to say that even though the disciples knew the scriptures and believed that Jesus was the Messiah, they still felt confused and desperately abandoned. So when your world is seemingly falling apart, you have to make a daily choice to believe that God is still sovereign and He can use your painful experience for your good and His glory. Does it still hurt? It sure does.
That was the most agonizing and numb Easter I ever had, but how thankful I was in that moment and in the months and years to come that Jesus overcame the grave through His resurrection so that my family and I would one day be reunited with Hannah. Little did I know that my Mom would join her in heaven a year later and my husband would join her there 12 years later, but those are stories for another day. In the meantime, I can be assured that Hannah, her MamMaw, and her Daddy are safe and totally at peace experiencing the love of Jesus that we can only “reflect in a mirror”.
So, even though Easter may present you with yet another holiday without a traditional family; one where you are on your own once again, preparing Easter baskets, dressing your babes in their finest, and planning a lunch that’s sure to include ham, remember how blessed you are to have them. Remember how much they teach you about your Father’s love for you. Through any disappointment we face, there can be hope because the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with his love.
Yes, Easter is still bittersweet for me, but a little more sweet than bitter. God knows what I am feeling – He has not forgotten that Good Friday long ago when His only son endured overwhelming physical and emotional pain in order to pay for our sin. That is the kind of love that brings about hope despite disappointment! Join me as we greet each other with joy this Easter as they did long ago, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”