“…I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.” Ezekiel 36:36b
“I’m dead inside.” Those were the words my friend read in a text received from me, after asking me “How are you doing?” I received this question and sent my response after a day’s worth of horrific events occurred and I was home alone, in such a state of shock that all of my emotions had shutdown. I cried myself to sleep that night and for many nights in the months that followed. For a series of days that led into months, I was a shell of a person. I couldn’t concentrate nor carry on any sort of coherent conversation. I tried functioning but those who knew me best knew they were not seeing a “live” version of me. The heaviness of that day and events that continued to occur for months after, felt as though I had been buried alive.
I thought I was leaning on God. I prayed every day. But I prayed angry prayers every day. When I say “angry”, I mean I screamed, I cried and I cussed at God. I wasn’t just angry with specific people, I was also angry at God. Every prayer included a demand for God to “DO SOMETHING” and “FIX THIS!” In fact, on at least one occasion, I recall yelling out, “You’d better fucking fix it RIGHT NOW, God!” Using the F-word in a prayer should have been an immediate wake up call for me but it wasn’t. It was the epitome of just how dead inside I was and how deep I had fallen into a pit of despair and hopelessness.
About six months after that horrible day, I realized I couldn’t go back and undo what had been done to my family. I knew I wasn’t handling the situation well and I was tired of feeling suffocated by all the darkness within me. I had allowed a root of bitterness to grow and it wasn’t just emotionally or spiritually killing me. It was effecting my physical health also. I had gained 20 pounds, I wasn’t sleeping well and had suffered two panic attacks in the middle of the night. By panic attacks I mean being awakened from a dead sleep by a racing/pounding heartbeat that caused me to sit straight up and question if I was having a heart attack. Using the “F-word” in prayer may not have been my wake up call, but that second panic attack made me realize that I was not physically, emotionally or spiritually healthy. Enough was enough. What had been done was done and although I couldn’t change evil, if I wanted to heal, I had change how I responded to it.
I couldn’t heal myself though. I didn’t even have the strength to stop hating the one(s) who had done evil to my family. To be honest, I wanted to heal, but I also wanted to keep hating the evil doers. Hate, however, doesn’t produce healing and I lacked the ability to stop hating my enemies. This meant relying on the very God I was angry with, the one I had been belligerent to for so many months. Although He hadn’t changed the circumstances, I knew He could change me in spite of these circumstances. I also knew, I needed His forgiveness of my own sins and His strength to forgive others. What I needed most, was His redeeming love and unending grace to resurrect all that had died within me.
Today is Easter. Today, churches all over the world will be flooded with increased attendance. In fact, for some people, today is the only day (or one of two days) they attend church annually. Some churches will put on theatrical shows that include at least one church member, dressed as Jesus, coming out of a cardboard”tomb” while their praise and worship team leads the congregation in “Glorious Day” by Casting Crowns (Bleeker, M., Mark Hall, J. 2009, Be Essential Songs/My Refuge Music) or an outdated hymn such as “Christ Arose” by Robert Lowry. (1874) Little girls may don pink chiffon ruffled dresses with delicate white sweaters and matching patent leather buckle shoes. Little boys may be dressed in cream or light blue colored suits that their mothers are praying they keep clean long enough to get that one family picture captured. Some little girls and women may wear flowery hats. Men may wear that one suit that hangs in their closet the rest of the year and only comes out for weddings, funerals or this one specific Sunday.
Sanctuaries will be decorated with fresh Easter lillies. If there is a wooden cross on display, it will likely have a white cloth draped across it. Communion will be offered during many services today. “He is not here, for He has risen” will most likely be spoken in at least 90% of the sermons preached today also. “He is risen” will also be posted and overload many social media sites. Afterall, from a Christian stand point, today isn’t just Easter, it’s Resurrection Sunday. Today is the day the stone was rolled away. This is the day Christians celebrate Jesus rising from His grave and conquering death. This is also the day some pastors rely on the Easter story to bring salvation to the unsaved.
Resurrection Sunday was not the first time Jesus had conquered death, nor is it the first resurrection mentioned in the Bible. In 1 Kings chapter 17, the prophet Elijah brings a woman’s son back to life. In the New Testament, Jesus brought Jarius’ daughter back to life and called Lazarus out of his grave after he had been dead for four days. Throughout the Bible, God has shown His resurrection power time again over human life and over our dead circumstances too. The book of Jeremiah prophesies His promise to restore or “resurrect” Jerusalem’s ruins. Daniel fasted for a promise from God that seemed “dead” but in Chapter 10 we read Gabriel telling Daniel that this promise will happen in “days yet to come.” (Daniel 10:14) Humanly speaking, Sarah, Hannah and even the woman who’s son Elijah resurrected all had “dead” wombs. Yet God brought life into them allowing each of them to become pregnant and bring sons into this world. All these situations seemed fatal and hopeless, yet God resurrected what was “dead” in each circumstance.
As grateful as I am for Christ’s death and resurrection, my favorite resurrection story comes from the book of Ezekiel. This is because it gives a visual of what a resurrection looks like. In chapter 37, we find the prophet walking amongst a valley of dry bones while engaging in conversation with God. During this conversation, God asks Ezekiel this question; “Son of man, can these bones live?” (verse 3a) Ezekiel responds with the perfect example of belief in God’s resurrecting power. Ezekiel replied; “…God, You know.” (verse 3b) God then tells Ezekiel to speak these bones. I’m just gonna get real for a minute and say, if I ever find myself walking in a valley of dry bones and hear God tell me to speak to them, I am confident I would ask “You want me to do what?” at least three times, just to ensure I heard God correctly. That’s of course after I got over being completely creeped out from walking in a valley of dry bones. (Feel free to insert a “laugh out loud” response now.)
Ezekiel, however, doesn’t question God nor is he bothered by what he’s walking through. He’s intent on listening to God and following His instructions, which is exactly how God continues the conversation. First, Ezekiel is instructed to prophesy over the bones telling them to “hear the word of the Lord.” (Verse 4). Then God declares He will give these bones breath, sinews (tissue), a covering of flesh and more breath so that these bones will live. Ezekiel’s response? Ezekiel tells his readers; “So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” (verse 7) He obeyed God’s instructions.
So what do my emotional death, Resurrection Sunday and dry bones coming alive have in common? The healing God has done within me is my own personal resurrection experience. At some point I believe God asked me, “Can your dry bones live? and I had to answer with, “God, You know.” I also had to pray my own version of “Lord, if you’re willing, take this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) When I finally surrendered all of it to Him, He did not fail. In fact, every day that I surrender all of my “dead” circumstances to Him, God breathes new life and new hope into me. I feel most alive today because He was faithful in bringing me emotionally and spiritually back from the dead. God is a Man of His Word and He kept His promise to give me a new heart and a new spirit, removing from me a heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36:26). He will be faithful to His promises to you as well.
Christ’s resurrection is not just a salvation story. It’s His promise to resurrect the dead inside each of us as well as bring life to circumstances and dreams that also seem dead to. If you’re struggling with believing this, just remember, that very power that Ezekiel experienced watching dry bones come to life, is the same power that Elijah used to resurrect a woman’s dead son. It is also the same power that opened up this woman’s, as well as Hannah and Sarah’s dead wombs. This is the same resurrecting power that raised up Jarius’ daughter, brought Lazarus out of the grave and raised Jesus from His tomb. We are not meant to live this life like emotional zombies; shutdown, detached, and having cut off our feelings to avoid pain. Jesus’s death and resurrection was for us to have life and to live it abundantly. (John 10:10) If, like me, you’ve felt dead inside, God wants to revive your dry bones and bring you back to life too.
Have you experienced an emotional or spiritual death recently? Have overwhelming and/or unfathomable circumstances beyond your control left you feeling buried alive? Are you especially at a point where you’re tired of feeling hopeless and desperate to live again? Then son (or daughter) of Man, prophesy to your dry bones. Call out in Jesus’ name and ask God to resurrect all that is dead inside of you. Prophesy over your dead circumstances. Easter isn’t about spring dresses, ham dinners or attending church once a year. It’s also not about having the only deacon with a beard portraying Jesus on a church stage performing some re-enactment that includes a fog machine and drum solo just for added special effects. Easter is about resurrection power. As Jeremy Camp would sing, it’s “the same power that rose Jesus from the grave, the same power that commands the dead to wake” that is living within us. (Camp, J., Ingraham, J., 2015, The Same Power, Essential Music Publishing)
May today be the day you call out to Jesus and have the dry bones inside of you resurrected too! When you do, don’t be surprise if you hear some rattling. To quote my favorite Resurrection Sunday song, that rattling sound is “praise, [that] makes a dead man walk again.” I pray for those reading this post, specifically those who are in desperate need of an emotional/spiritual resurrection, that today you cry out, “open the grave, I’m coming out, I’m gonna live, gonna live again.” For that kind of prayer “is the sound of dry bones rattling…” (Lake, B., Brown, C., Furtick, S., 2020, Rattle, Elevation Worship Publishing.)