Updated: May 3, 2021
Rev. Dr. Barry Johnson
We have spoken at length about the issues the church has faced due to the effects of COVID-19; but now, at last, we are being provided a cause for optimism, in that we may soon return to a sense of normalcy. I applaud all of the churches that have either hosted a pop-up vaccination center or served as recruiters and registration sites. Of course, there is a warning that we are not yet totally out of danger, as there are new variants of the virus; but we have thankfully made it this far, and if we remain patient and depend upon the Lord, we will see the culmination. As we witness the lower rates of infection and hospitalization, the good news is that there is optimism in the air.
Optimism, by its most basic definition, is a sense of hopefulness and confidence about the future, in the successful outcome of an issue or situation. Optimism is an emotion, in that one is assured that problems will vanish, and conflicts will be resolved. In this case, optimism is the belief that we will soon return to a pre-COVID lifestyle, which we had probably taken for granted. The complaints we had prior to 2020 now seem shallow, after having lived through a year that will most likely be recorded with an asterisk. Remember, the antonym or opposite of optimism is pessimism, through which a person sees everything as problematic. My prayer is that one of the societal byproducts resulting from this turbulent COVID year is that the gloom of pessimism is reduced, and that we (especially, those Christians that have placed their faith and trust in the Lord) will view our lives as a thing of beauty, grateful we are still yet alive.
As we enter into this month of April, we celebrate the Easter holiday, about which I will list here several reasons to be optimistic (aside from the current medical breakthroughs for COVID relief). First is the obvious significance of honoring the Easter holiday, which symbolizes the passion and sacrifice of Jesus, who was given because God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16).
The Centrality of the Cross becomes the focus because Jesus was crucified upon this crude implement, hanging for several hours before He “yielded up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50). Pessimism from the influences of Satan gleefully pronounced Jesus dead, and the mission to save His people, a fallacy; but optimism reminds us that, in three days, He would rebuild a destroyed temple (John 2:19). History has proven that the cross could not hold Him and definitely, could not kill Him.
When we move to the borrowed tomb, pessimism returns its ugly head, as Satan’s followers sensed that, since the body was in a grave – the destination and home of the dead – they could declare, “We’ve got Him now!” Yet, optimism never left Jesus. Although the stone sealed the sepulcher, He was already moving toward the environs of hell to “show off” the errors of those who had rejected Him, to reveal the power of God.
The Third Day finds the disciples in hiding because pessimism was controlling their thoughts and actions. They were sad and in a state of disbelief, for this situation seemed impossible; after all, they had been witnesses to Jesus’ awesome power of restoring sight to the blind, feeding multitudes of people, and calming the storms. They were devastated that it had come to this, as it seemed as if the Mission was now over. Nonetheless, optimism came in the form of Mary Magdalene and her companions who went to the tomb, saw that the stone had been hurled away, and found that it was empty! Optimism revealed to the world that death could not hold Jesus (and that Christians are not to be bound by the allure or power of Satan). We are free and alive because Jesus arose from the confrontation of the cross and the tomb.
Humanity will, unfortunately, be tempted with the continual specter of pessimism; though, Christians are encouraged not to fall into the trappings of this snare. As John was reminded in his apocalypse, believers should never align themselves with the regalia of the beast (Satan) because God’s judgment will lead to the destruction of all manner of religious pessimism and, for those who are secure in the Lord, cement the totality of optimistic faith (Revelation 18). As we look forward to relief from this pandemic, we must remain thankful to the Lord, who continues to “make a way out of no way.”