Countless voices sang in unison this past weekend to proclaim Christ’s victory over the grave. The Church defiantly looked death in the face and proclaimed through prayer and song, “Death is swallowed up in victory! O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
But in the midst of all the triumph, my wife and I still feel defeated. In the parade of all the family portraits and Easter egg hunts, our hearts and home still echo with emptiness. And as those around us wonder where death’s sting has vanished to, our souls still respond: “It’s right here.”
To my dismay, the flood of hopeful anthems didn’t bring us to the surface. If anything, it dragged us down even further. Then guilt pulls me deeper. “How could you be so hopeless, so unmoved by the promises you cling to? You who once sang triumphantly – even led others in these very songs – how could you still be songless?”
Maybe you still felt death’s sting on Sunday, too. Or maybe, while you were singing with joy, you were thinking of others who are grieving. What do we do when these words don’t seem to line up with our experience?
I found some comfort in the context of the passage that’s quoted. Paul did not pen those words as a present reality, but as a future hope: “When [we are resurrected], THEN shall come to pass the saying that is written, ‘death is swallowed up in victory’…” (1 Cor. 15:54). Earlier he says, “The last enemy to be defeated is death” (v26). In other words, we’re still waiting for this to happen. We’re still waiting for death’s sting to cease. We’re waiting for it to be finally destroyed.
Jesus conquered the grave and he will conquer ours. We look back to his resurrection and look forward to our own. The day is surely coming when “death shall be no more” (Rev. 20:4), but that day is not fully realized yet.
So for those of you who are singing against death’s power, keep lifting up your voice, for there are hurting people around you who can’t.
And for those of you who are stinging from death’s strike, keep lifting up your eyes, for our hope is not in our singing but in the One who our songs are about.