Fourth Sunday of Lent: Amid 'tragedy' of hopelessness today, still a reason to rejoice

Despite a war, a pandemic and a challenging economy, ‘people are drawing near to God,' says a Seattle pastor

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Christians around the world celebrate the fourth Sunday of Lent on March 27, 2022.

Sometimes called Laetare Sunday, this special day in the Lenten season celebrates feelings of joy amid the more somber moments of Lent. (Laetare is a Latin word that means "to rejoice.")

Jesse Bradley, pastor of Grace Community Church in Seattle, Washington, told Fox News Digital that although feelings of hopelessness loom for many in modern society — something he termed a "devastating tragedy" — believers worldwide can still have hope and even truly rejoice.

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A recent American Psychological Association report revealed "unprecedented levels" of stress among Americans due to a variety of issues that include the war in Ukraine, the COVID pandemic and the challenging economy.  

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Yet there is still very good reason to have hope, said Bradley.  

"People around the world are still drawing near to God," Pastor Bradley said in an emailed message. 

A woman is shown deep in prayer in this image. "There is a hope greater than our biggest challenges," said Pastor Bradley of Seattle. "Because of God's grace, He walks us through the valley of the shadow of death." 

A woman is shown deep in prayer in this image. "There is a hope greater than our biggest challenges," said Pastor Bradley of Seattle. "Because of God's grace, He walks us through the valley of the shadow of death." 

The pastor shared three important facets of hope, even in the most dire of circumstances.

1. Hope is foundational. In his 20s, before becoming a pastor, Bradley was a professional soccer player. 

After graduating from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, he played for the Highlanders Football Club in Zimbabwe and the Aberdeen Football Club in Scotland. 

Pastor Jesse Bradley fought for his life for a year after a medication mishap — then spent 10 years fully recovering, he told Fox News Digital. But his pain led to "a new purpose — and passion to spread hope around the world."

Pastor Jesse Bradley fought for his life for a year after a medication mishap — then spent 10 years fully recovering, he told Fox News Digital. But his pain led to "a new purpose — and passion to spread hope around the world." (Pastor Jesse Bradley)

Then, the unexpected happened. A prescribed medication to prevent malaria reached toxic levels in his system — ending his soccer 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 passion to spread hope around the world," Bradley said.

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"There is a hope greater than our biggest challenges. Because of God's grace, He walks us through the valley of the shadow of death." 

Easter reminds us, Bradley said, that "God does His greatest work in the darkest times."

A woman is shown praying here inside a church. Said Pastor Bradley for the fourth Sunday of Lent, "God and his love is the one part of my life that can never be taken away." 

A woman is shown praying here inside a church. Said Pastor Bradley for the fourth Sunday of Lent, "God and his love is the one part of my life that can never be taken away."  (iStock)

"Death precedes resurrection. When I felt like I had lost everything, I shifted my identity from my own performance to God's grace." 

Bradley said he realized that "God and his love is the one part of my life that can never be taken away." 

The message of Lent, he said, "is that we can abide with Jesus and find a security that is deeper than our grieving." 

"God does his greatest work in the darkest times."

2. Hope is available. As the death toll in Ukraine rises and heart-wrenching pictures from that war-torn country tug at our emotions, Bradley recommends turning to God’s holy word rather than giving into hopelessness. 

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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 Maker of heaven and earth."

We can all "become instruments of hope as we pray, give and help those in dire need," said Bradley. 

Pastor Bradley's church has begun a weekly prayer gathering for the people of Ukraine. "God is close to those who are heartbroken," he said. 

Pastor Bradley's church has begun a weekly prayer gathering for the people of Ukraine. "God is close to those who are heartbroken," he said.  (Pastor Jesse Bradley)

He mentioned that his own church has started a weekly prayer gathering in which participants lift up the needs of the people of Ukraine.

"Grieving is human and healthy, but we do not need to grieve without hope," said Bradley. 

"God is close to those who are heartbroken. Jesus has living water for every thirsty soul."

"Receiving God's grace galvanizes us to bring comfort, extending that same sacrificial love we experience through Jesus."

Calling God's grace an "undeserved gift," he said that it is offered to all people on earth, including Ukrainians and all "those who are weeping 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 historical. The Lenten season is significant because it focuses on an event over 2,000 years ago: the crucifixion of Jesus, said Bradley.

People all over the world are praying for the Ukrainian people during their times of hardship as Russian forces continue attacking Ukraine. Said Pastor Bradley, "We must reject discouragement and passivity."

People all over the world are praying for the Ukrainian people during their times of hardship as Russian forces continue attacking Ukraine. Said Pastor Bradley, "We must reject discouragement and passivity." (iStock/State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images))

"Christians remember the suffering of their sinless savior who sacrificed his life with an inspiring unselfishness," he said. 

"God sent His Son to earth and demonstrated a profound love that continues to move hearts and convince minds today that we are invited into a relationship with our maker."

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The historical evidence for the death and resurrection of Jesus is "compelling," according to Bradley, and has turned even hardened non-believers into people of great faith.

"Lee Strobel was a journalist who investigated the claims of Christianity as a skeptic," he said. 

"His research led to his eventual decision to follow Jesus — and he consequently wrote books like ‘The Case for Christ.’" 

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"Hope is an anchor for the soul," said Bradley. "Looking back to the cross helps us persevere now," he added — "and courageously move forward."