Christians around the world celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent on March 27, 2022.
Sometimes referred to as Laetare Sunday, this special day in the Lenten season celebrates feelings of joy amidst the darkest times of Lent. (Laetare is a Latin word meaning “to rejoice.”)
Jesse Bradley, pastor of Grace Community Church in Seattle, Washington, told Fox News Digital that while feelings of despair hang over many in modern society — what he called a “devastating tragedy” — believers around the world people can always have hope and even really rejoice.
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A recent report by the American Psychological Association found “unprecedented levels” of stress among Americans due to various issues, including the war in Ukraine, the COVID pandemic and economic hardship.
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Still, there are still very good reasons to be hopeful, Bradley said.
“People all over the world are always drawing closer to God,” Pastor Bradley said in an emailed message.
The pastor shared three important facets of hope, even in the most dire of circumstances.
1. Hope is fundamental. In his twenties, before becoming a pastor, Bradley was a professional footballer.
After graduating from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, he played for Highlanders Football Club in Zimbabwe and Aberdeen Football Club in Scotland.
Then the unexpected happened. A drug prescribed to prevent malaria reached toxic levels in his system, ending his football career.
After fighting for his life for a full year, he said it took him “10 years to fully recover”.
However, the pain led to “a new purpose – and a passion to spread hope around the world,” Bradley said.
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“There is a greater hope than our greatest challenges. Through God’s grace, He guides us through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Easter reminds us, Bradley said, that “God does his greatest work in the darkest of times.”
“Death precedes resurrection. When I felt like I had lost everything, I changed my identity from my own performance to the grace of God.”
Bradley said he realized that “God and his love is the only part of my life that can never be taken away from me”.
The message of Lent, he said, “is that we can abide with Jesus and find a security that is deeper than our grief.”
2. Hope is available. As Ukraine’s death toll rises and heartbreaking images of the war-torn country tug at our emotions, Bradley recommends turning to God’s holy word rather than giving in to despair.
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“The Bible is a source of comfort,” he said. He noted that Psalm 121 begins, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.”
We can all “become instruments of hope when we pray, give and help those who need it most,” Bradley said.
He mentioned that his own church has started a weekly prayer gathering where participants raise the needs of the Ukrainian people.
“Grieving is human and healthy, but we don’t need to grieve hopelessly,” Bradley said.
“God is near to the brokenhearted. Jesus has living water for every thirsty soul.”
Calling God’s grace an “undeserved gift”, he said it is offered to all people on earth, including Ukrainians and all “those who mourn with them”.
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“We must reject discouragement and passivity,” he further noted.
“Receiving God’s grace galvanizes us to bring comfort, extending that same sacrificial love we experience through Jesus.”
3. Hope is historic. The season of Lent is significant because it focuses on an event more than 2,000 years ago: the crucifixion of Jesus, Bradley said.
“Christians remember the suffering of their sinless savior who sacrificed his life with inspiring selflessness,” he said.
“God sent his Son to earth and demonstrated a deep love that continues to move hearts and convince minds today that we are invited into a relationship with our Creator.”
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The historical evidence of Jesus’ death and resurrection is “compelling,” according to Bradley, and has transformed even hardened non-believers into people of great faith.
“Lee Strobel was a journalist who investigated Christianity’s claims as a skeptic,” he said.
“His research led him to ultimately decide to follow Jesus – and he wrote books like ‘The Case for Christ’ as a result.”
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“Hope is an anchor for the soul,” Bradley said. “Looking back to the cross helps us to persevere now,” he added, “and to go forward with courage.”