Photo by Sapan Patel on Unsplash

By: Gabriela Yareliz

Despair seems to be as available as the air we breathe. It feels palpable. I see it in the faces of strangers, colleagues, clients. I sense it, too, in those I love. I sense it in myself, at times. The thing about despair is that when we breathe it in, it seems to grip our throat and choke us out like dust. We find ourselves gasping for air. Fighting an invisible force that threatens to overpower us. All of us.

That’s the thing, though. Is despair a force or is it nothing, like the concept of cold? Is it actually the absence of something? If one looks it up in the dictionary, the definition of “despair” reads, “the absence of hope.” Just like “cold” is the absence of heat. And “darkness” is the absence of light.

There are some years where a word sort of resonates with me, as a theme. I have had years where it was words like “strength,” “cultivate” and “boldness.” Boldness is something that I believe God is personally growing in me, still. That was last year’s word. Boldness continues to pop up for me. Just this weekend, I heard a sermon that had a beautiful passage on boldness:

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:29-30)

Boldness continues to come up, and it is sort of tied to the word that has anchored itself in my heart for this year, “(A)RISE.” Rise/arise has been resonating in my head like an echo. I thought about it prayerfully. I do Arise Bible studies, and sometimes, I have asked myself, what does it mean to “arise”?

A verse that is beautifully sung in a Selah song says, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.” (Isaiah 60:1-2)

This word sort of evokes different types of imagery. It reminds one of the sunrise. The process of light dispelling darkness after a long night. Colors, splendor, clarity.

Also, to rise is a verb. It can mean to move from a lower position and to move higher. It can also mean “cease to be submissive, obedient, or peaceful.”

I continue to feel God work on my character. It has been a strange turning around. I started, as a very self-assured person. I have always been bold. Even when I was a kid. I am, by nature, an assertive person. And then, I felt God calling me into a season of softening. Real softening. I felt like something shattered the old me. It was a call to be led, to be meeker (or meek, period), and a call to humility and a self-awareness of my own pride, at times.

In these difficult and turbulent times, globally, I felt like God was putting me back together. It felt like He broke me and then was like, Ok, remember that boldness? We are going to channel that properly, now. He made me see things I hadn’t seen before. In the darkest times of uncertainty, I spent nights in prayer for clarity, for discernment, for the lives of people whose lives around me hung in a balance it felt like. There were days I would stop midday and just pour my heart out to Him in anguish, but my outpouring was my gesture of hope. Sometimes, we don’t even know what to pray anymore. So we just release our emotions in a posture of humility, knowing He makes intercession for us at the throne of God.

A story that has kept coming back to me is the story of Lazarus. That story, as I have stated before on this page, holds a great deal of significance for me. For many reasons and in many ways. It is my favorite of Jesus’ miracles. I think it reached a deeper meaning for me when I felt alone and was praying fervently for answers and guidance while in law school as I contemplated the future with all of its fog. There was a church I visited often on University Place and 10th St. I would sit in a pew and read the hymn and prayer book. I would pray. Sometimes, I would cry. The janitor knew me. I always sat in the same pew. Early on, while praying, rather than watching some people who would come in off the street and walk to the front, I looked up. I realized that above the pew where I always sat was a stained glass depiction of the story of Lazarus.

Recently, in a moment where I felt alone, I opened a book and there it was– John chapter 11. The story of Lazarus. The story we can all identify with. The one where, just like Martha, when something goes wrong, we identify with her words when she says, “Lord, if you had been here…” This misconception in our suffering, where we have deceived ourselves into thinking that our loss or suffering is the absence of God’s presence or awareness, when it is not so. In this story, Jesus shows us the heart of God.

In this story, we find the shortest verse in Scripture, “Jesus wept.” (v. 35). We also find the words of Jesus that rattle me to my core, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

That’s the thing about this story. Belief changes everything. Faith was the difference between quite literally death and life. Faith changes the end of the story. Always. There is no exception. No exceptions. That is something I feel in my very depth.

I heard a song recently (though it is old), whose title is “Rise Up (Lazarus).” It moved me deeply. Because just as the darkness’ blanket is broken by a sun that rises, to rise means to have strength and power. It means to be alive. It means whatever held you down no longer has power over you.

Like Lazarus, we may be alone or in a dark place. We may be done for; end of the rope. We may literally feel dead inside. There are many things in this life that entomb us. Death doesn’t have to be literal. It can be a state of paralysis, comfort and sleep, ignorance, disappointment, grief– it takes many shapes and forms.

It is my belief that God has a purpose for every life. He stands and calls us by name. He prepares us and takes us on a journey with Him if we let Him. He calls us to step out. He makes us truly alive.

He tells us, “Arise, shine…”

I don’t know what this year has in store for me. Only He knows what we are walking toward. All I do know is I have felt a shift inside of me; I have felt His calling on my heart. It keeps telling me to “rise.”

I don’t know what He has placed on your heart. It may be an extremely different season for you. My wish for you is that you embrace whatever He has placed in you. Run with it. Do all He wants you to do. Take the risks. Take the journey. Trust that He is the life and resurrection. That you may feel His presence and His light.

At Christmas, we remember hope and promise fulfilled in the most unexpected way. As we leave Christmas behind, we march toward Easter. We journey toward a breaking of our damnation. We journey toward the end of death and the bursting forth of life, and the offering of life eternal to all of us. He lives. And if you are reading this, you are breathing. May you allow Him to make you truly alive. May whatever we embark on collectively and whatever we do for Him, reflect that life, love and redemption we find at the cross. That’s the funny irony about the cross. We wear it and celebrate it, when in reality, it is an instrument for death. We cling to and cherish it because it brought us life.

Life is hope. There is no room for despair. Arise.

Published by Gabriela Yareliz

Gabriela is a writer, editor and attorney. She loves the art of storytelling, and she is based in NYC.

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