By Harry Schaumburg
When approached with the question, “Is everything okay?” or “Are you okay?” here is my answer: don’t ask! Very candidly, I can’t stand that question! Is this because I am having a bad day? Perhaps. More likely I am just facing another day in which something is wrong with everything. My back is killing me, my dog vomited on the carpet (I’ll spare you the details), the soap dispenser is empty (again), my car is making more weird sounds, the computer froze up on me, and my cell phone doesn’t have a signal! Another child was abducted, more of our soldiers died in Iraq, there was another high school shooting, and children are homeless, starving and dying all around! Yeah, everything is okay – if you don’t pay attention to reality or listen to the morning news.
How could everything be okay? It’s a meaningless question. Nothing is okay – after all, nothing works the way it should. When someone asks me, “Are you okay?” I want to believe that they really care – that they are truly interested in what is going on in my life. But I have learned that you can’t always trust people the way you would like to trust them. Often I find myself wondering, “Did they just ask because they really care about me, or did they ask simply to reassure themselves regarding our relationship?” Trust is always an issue in every relationship. When I don’t trust the reason behind someone asking me, “Is everything okay?” my answer is the same, no matter what is going on inside of me: “I’m fine!” Which doesn’t reassure them one bit, and, given the way my day has gone, I am likely to not even care.
Here’s the problem: I can’t be who I want to be or do what I want to do. Not today, not tomorrow, not any day in this lifetime! Am I okay? You’re kidding me! It is impossible to be okay – today. It all boils down to this simple fact: we can’t get through life alive. This is true every single day of my life. It is a reality that will never change and there is nothing I can do about it. That is why the question always irritates me so deeply!
In no uncertain terms, Jesus stated the truth that nothing works the way it should on the night He was betrayed with a kiss. Knowing He was going to have a really bad night, He said to those evil men arresting Him, “But this is your hour—darkness reigns” (Luke 22:53). So whenever anyone asks, or for that matter, when no one asks, “Are you okay?” please remember: as long as it is called “today” darkness reigns. Evil is everywhere. The threat of tragedy, danger, and betrayal is real. Whether it is terrorism, inflation, disease, storms, famine, divorce, or relational pain and disappointment, the troubles you face today will challenge your faith. That’s what they are supposed to do. If they don’t, you are not a legitimate child of God (Hebrews 12:1-13). Darkness reigns! Sin, temptation, deceitfulness, insults, and heartache are just a moment away every day of our lives.
Then today, of all days, suddenly I hear the choir! Not the church choir or the CD playing in my ears, but the heavenly choir. The trumpets blare, symbols clang, the organ sounds, the choir sings, and suddenly I remember:
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done, Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won; Alleluia!
Lo! The Sun’s eclipse is over, Alleluia!
Lo! He sits in blood no more, Alleluia!
Vain the stone, the watch, the seal, Alleluia!
Christ hath burst the gates of hell, Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise; Alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise. Alleluia!
Lives again our glorious king; Alleluia!
Where, O death is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, He our souls to save; Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ hath led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted head; Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise; Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies. Alleluia!
Hail, the Lord of earth and heaven, Alleluia!
Praise to Thee by both be given, Alleluia!
Thee we greet triumphant now, Alleluia!
Hail, the resurrection day, Alleluia!
King of glory, Soul of bliss, Alleluia!
Everlasting life is this, Alleluia!
Thee to know, Thy power to prove, Alleluia!
Thus to sing and thus to love, Alleluia!
Hymns of praise then let us sing, Alleluia!
Unto Christ, our heavenly King, Alleluia!
Who endured the cross and grave, Alleluia!
Sinners to redeem and save, Alleluia!
But the pains that He endured, Alleluia!
Our salvation have procured, Alleluia!
Now above the sky He’s King, Alleluia!
Where the angels ever sing. Alleluia!
Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss. Alleluia! 1
It’s an old hymn, written by Charles Wesley in 1708, but it still stirs my soul. I can’t sing, I can’t even type the words, and certainly not hear those words sung without feeling utterly overwhelmed with emotion. I am so unsure of my reactions that I’m reluctant to stand in church on Easter Sunday morning and hear the congregation sing. I’ll choke up and not be able even to get the words out. I fear the joy will so fill me that I start running up and down the aisle (not in a Presbyterian church!) and embarrass my family and myself. Eight years ago on an Easter Sunday morning, as we stood to sing those glorious words my knees weakened and I almost couldn’t stand. I tried to fight back the tears and couldn’t believe what was happening to me. It was absolutely uncontrollable. For just a moment I didn’t know what to do with myself, I was so overwhelmed. Then suddenly the hymn was over and the compulsory greeting of one another began. And there I stood, tears running down my cheeks with everyone giving the Sunday morning obligatory smile and handshake. I asked myself, “Does anyone get it? Is it just Easter with Sunday dinner, new clothes and candy? Or do we understand that Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia!
I told myself that the next Easter this emotional response wouldn’t happen again. I was sure I would not feel the same, or at least I would be able control it. But a year later it happened again. It has every Easter since. Each year, quite naturally, very predictably, I have the same uncontrollable response. I understand that Easter is the most meaningful of days to me, but my emotional response has seemed odd and somewhat puzzling — until this Easter. Good Friday was not good. Saturday was even worse. So as Easter approached I thought to myself, “Not this Easter. It’s not possible for it to happen again.” Boy, was I wrong! But now I understand. Not just my emotions, but more about Easter.
As I sat quietly in my loft Easter Sunday reading the resurrection story and listening to a CD of hymns, I heard the first notes of that well-known hymn in my headset. I was surprised by the emotion and the joy that overtook me, knowing that ‘today would have enough troubles of its own.’ But while I listened, I realized that it is only by living in the pain and disappointment that the deep emotions stir my soul when I hear, “Christ, the Lord, is risen today, Alleluia! Then I knew the answer to that annoying question: “Is everything okay?” YES! YES! It is okay! Really, it’s okay! Not now! Not today! But tomorrow it will be okay! Alleluia! All my days are full of trouble, and yours are too. But there is a longing in each of us for tomorrow, so let the truth sing in your heart too. Don’t you see that in the horror and in the pain that is now, nothing is more real and true than “Christ the Lord, is risen TODAY! Alleluia!
Any questions or comments you can email them to: Harry@stonegateoffice.com.
1 Charles Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns. His work was frequently altered. His brother John wrote: “I bid you leave to mention a thought which has been long upon my mind, and which I should long ago have inserted in public papers, had I not been unwilling to stir up a nest of hornets. Many gentlemen have done my brother and me the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome to do so, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them, for they are really not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse. Therefore, I must beg of them these two favors: either to let them stand just as they are, to take things for better or worse, or to add the true reading in the margin, or the bottom of the page, that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or the doggerel of other men.” John Wesley’s request is honored in giving you the full hymn as it was written.
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