Resurrection and the Surviving God

Resurrection and the Surviving God October 9, 2013

Content Note: brief description of a suicide attempt 

This past year, around Easter, I planned on writing some posts about crucifixion and resurrection. I found I couldn’t really get past the former. I mean, I’m a skeptic on the idea of the literal resurrection of Jesus to begin with, but I found I couldn’t even envision a risen God. A victorious living God.

A suffering God? A dying God? An oppressed God? Yeah, I could see that. I could see that clearly. In fact, writing about the crucifixion and beginning to see God With Us in suffering and oppression and resistance helped me fall in love with God. It helped me replace the fear and confusion that had once come up when I thought of God with a sense of nearness and comfort. I could see God in myself.

But I couldn’t (and still can’t, really) reconcile the idea of the resurrected Jesus with my experience in life.

I’ve heard such beautiful and hopeful language about the resurrection ushering in a renewed world of love and justice, but I look around and I can’t always find it. At the time, I was severely depressed, which made everything seem bleaker than it really is. But even now (still struggling with depression but it’s less severe), I wonder, if Jesus died to usher in a renewed world, well, where is it?

The resurrection is supposed to be this big, important, world-changing thing, but what did it actually do?

It was like Jesus went through all that suffering, and all the trouble of coming back to life anyway and nothing got better and nothing changed. The sick are still sick, the captive are still captive, the oppressed are still oppressed. All that’s different is that we have a bunch of people running around the world telling everyone that “Jesus is alive?”

So what?

Simply put, the resurrection seemed pointless to me.  Like nothing more than a fun trick.

I think I’m grasping at an idea of resurrection that I can relate to, though. I’m still figuring it out, even as I write this–in the process of writing I changed my mind about all the conclusions I planned to come to. But here we go anyway:

Maybe resurrection isn’t a declaration of ultimate victory over evil. Maybe resurrection is about survivors, not triumphant kings. 

I’ve embraced the narrative of crucifixion as God With Us in suffering. Maybe I’m ready to embrace the narrative of resurrection as God With Us in surviving.

I attempted suicide almost exactly two years ago. I don’t know if I should have died or came close to actually dying. But I remember lying on my bathroom floor, sicker than I’ve ever been, with vomit in my hair and thinking, It is finished. 

I think God was there. The suffering God that I later fell in love with.

I don’t remember how long I was on that cold floor. It wasn’t three days, but it felt like it. Maybe it was three hours. I don’t know if I actually came close to dying or just felt like I was dying.

But I do know that I didn’t stay there. Eventually, I got up.

I rose again.

I rose again, knowing things weren’t going to get better just because I got up. I rose again, knowing friends and family were going to see me as weak and a failure because of this. It wasn’t victorious or triumphant. It was shaky and quiet and scary and lonely. 

I wonder if Jesus’ resurrection was the same way. 

I didn’t single-handedly defeat depression and the pain from my past when I rose off that floor. I didn’t defeat the powers of evil or anything exciting like that.

But I survived.

Maybe the key to reconciling the resurrection with my experience is not in Christus Victor but in Christ, Survivor. 

If God understands the pain of suffering, maybe she also understands the struggle of surviving after suffering. Maybe God understands how hard it is to rise up off cold bathroom floors, wipe vomit off your face, and decide you’re going to keep living for now, even though the world hasn’t changed much.

Today, I’m going to embrace the idea of resurrection as this: Fellow survivors, God is with us. 

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  • This…this is a god I might believe in.

  • Librarian Targaryen

    Christology remains one of the few avenues of theology that still interests me so this really made a positive impression: “If God understands the pain of suffering, maybe she also understands the struggle of surviving after suffering.” This is incredibly encouraging! Thank you so much for writing on this topic.

  • This is beautiful Sarah.

  • forgedimagination

    That was beautiful. Thank you.

  • GirlBetrayed

    Sarah, this post came onto my facebook feed at the perfect time. Like, miraculously. I feel like I could have written the first half, because I just got over a time just like that. I, too, have had no clue what to do with the resurrection. Like, it’s been 2000 years and still things are all messed up. Thank you for sharing your thoughts (always, but especially) today…

  • Cake

    I have a hard time believing that a god could suffer in any meaningful way.

    Unless it wanted to.

    Then it becomes just another form of entertainment.

    • Fusina

      I have children. Because I was a child, I can empathize with them. I understand the trials of being a child. I am more patient with them, am more willing to look at a situation from their end.

      But I assure you, it was not entertaining to be a child. And I believe that is what the incarnation was all about, a way for god to experience being human, such that he was human. No, I have no idea how this was accomplished–smarter people than I am have been wrestling with this for years. For me, it is enough that as I am, he was, and he knows, and empathizes.

      • Cake

        You just threw omniscience under the bus.
        Tell me more of the things that god doesn’t know.

        • Fusina

          How I am going to respond to things. Free will–that is what it is all about. I don’t think he knows what we will do. Much like when I ask one of my children to do something, I don’t know what they will do. So no, I guess I don’t believe that god is omniscient. Interesting. I had not realized that before.

          • Cake

            That’s a rather different view than what the large bulk of Christianity believes. It’s good that you recognize it though, I don’t think many people would have the guts to admit it openly.

          • Fusina

            I’m not exactly what most describe as a christian anymore. Yes, I believe that Jesus is the son of god, but I don’t believe that christianity is the only way to find god. I am working out my beliefs slowly. It is kind of scary, because I am going against centuries of tradition here. I have family members who have told me that I am going to hell for this. That hurt–but not enough to turn me from my search.

          • Fusina, I don’t think you are going to hell, even if you were to come to some mistaken conclusions

        • Alice

          There’s a difference between knowing all the facts there are to know and experiencing something first-hand. I could read all the vivid descriptions in the world about the taste of an apple or the sensation of pain, and I could know all of the scientific facts about our senses, but it wouldn’t be the same as the actual experience.

          • Cake

            Omniscience is not just knowing facts. By description it’s knowing everything. Maybe you should join Fusina in her admission that Omniscience is not one of god’s attributes.

          • sarahoverthemoon

            Okay, Cake, no more comments from you. That’s enough.

          • Fred

            Calm respectful discussion is not allowed on this blog?
            Perhaps you should make it very clear that disagreement isn’t allowed or just turn off comments altogether.

            I’m genuinely shocked at your infantile behavior. Don’t worry I don’t care to discuss things with a blog owner who doesn’t respect their own beliefs enough to challenge them.

          • sarahoverthemoon

            Nope, don’t tolerate people who aren’t respectful of other commenters’ non-harmful beliefs. Also, don’t tolerate people who call me “infantile” for enforcing boundaries on my blog so, bye!

    • Joseph O Polanco

      Our loving Creator can and does feel hurt. “How often they {the ancient Israelites} rebelled against him in the wilderness and made him feel hurt in the desert!” -Psalms 78:40 (Braces mine.)

  • Brad dayag

    To your point of the purpose of the Resurrection and its impact on the world: Christ’s purpose wasn’t material, it was spiritual, to make us richer in spirit despite our physical condition. we don’t have souls, we are souls. We have bodies for a brief period of our existence.

    On the state of the world, I refer to to a quote from Walter Miller. The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they became with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier to see something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn

    Its difficult for us ti imagine how difficult life used to be for the average person 20 centuries ago.

    • Bethany Henderson

      I’ll be honest and say that I’m confused as to what you’re getting at with the quote from Walter Miller. I understand that life 20 centuries ago was different and hard. But, I’m struggling to understand whether you’re insinuating that Sarah’s life is a ‘garden of pleasure’ or that the modern day is easier or closer to perfection/paradise. And, if I’m understanding the meaning behind the quote correctly, why would this be placed after an entry describing a suicide attempt?

  • Kristen Rosser

    One thing worth noting is that it’s actually impossible to compare the world as we see it with the world as it might have been if Christ had never come. We simply don’t have the second data set.

  • Alice

    This is so beautiful. Real victory happens slowly with a lot of setbacks. It is an ongoing process, and sometimes it is really hard to see. It’s not like Hollywood endings.

  • Sarah, I really like the way you identified with the resurrection through your own experience. However, I think there is additional significance to the resurrection.

    John chapter 10 records Jesus, as the Shepherd, saying: “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
    If Jesus is talking about his actual death, it seems that the reason he died was so that he could return to life. Why? What does the resurrection do?
    The resurrection:

    * Validates Jesus’ uniqueness; he was not just another wise teacher
    * Makes us pay attention to what he teaches about the loving Father
    * Gives us confirmation of our own eventual resurrection and eternal life

    These are all elements of the Good News that Jesus came to proclaim and accomplish.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    Beautiful piece Sarah!

    It’s always been my understanding that Christ’s resurrection was necessary because he was unjustly murdered. It also served as a guarantee, as it were, that God will keep his promise of resurrecting our loved ones in Paradise. (cf. John 5:28,29; Acts 24:15)