And because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth a living just because He lives (Bill and Gloria Gaither).
Carlton Young says this gospel hymn “is one of the five most requested… to be included in many hymnals.” Based on John 14:19—“because I live, you also will live”—the hymn’s theme is effectively supported by a soaring melody in the refrain. The words were written by two of the longest-lasting performing couples of Christian contemporary music, Gloria (b. 1942) and William J. (b. 1936) Gaither. Because He Lives was awarded the recognition of Gospel Song of the Year for 1974 by the Gospel Music Association and the American Society of Composers and Publishers (ASCAP). “Because He Lives (1971) was written in the midst of social upheaval, threats of war, and betrayals of national and personal trust. It was into this world at such a time that we were bringing our third little baby. Assassinations, drug traffic, and war monopolized the headlines. It was in the midst of this kind of uncertainty that the assurance of the Lordship of the risen Christ blew across our troubled minds like a cooling breeze in the parched desert. Holding our tiny son in our arms we were able to write: ‘How sweet to hold our newborn baby, and feel the pride, and joy he gives; but greater still the calm assurance, this child can face uncertain day because He lives” Bill and Gloria said.
Bill Gaither began as a teacher of English, literature and journalism in 1959 in his hometown of Alexandria, Indiana USA. His future bride, Gloria Sickal, taught French and English in the same high school. They started to sing together and were married in 1962. By 1967, the couple left the teaching profession to become full-time recording and performing artists. Gaither Studios has helped many well-known contemporary Christian artists to produce their albums, including Ray Boltz, Sandi Patty, The Cathedrals, The Talleys, Michael W. Smith, Rich Mullins, Lisa Bevill, Bob Carlisle, Sheila Walsh, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Tommy Sims, Jessy Dixon, Lynda Randle, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and the Gaither Vocal Band. “Because He Lives” begins with the empty grave on Easter Sunday. Stanza two is about hope, even in uncertain days, because of the singular significance of the Resurrection event. Stanza three takes us to heaven where we will “see the lights of glory and… know [Jesus] reigns.” This gospel song has undoubtedly offered hope for many people because of its connection between the Resurrection and a “life… worth the living.”
Easter is a perfect Metaphor for Hope, the type that knows no bound or limit. The type that no chain can bound, and no sin can enslave, Easter is the most profound experience of the Christian religion. When all seems to be lost, suddenly light appears no matter how long the tunnel lasts. On Good Friday, all His disciples ran away and left Him alone, the last of his disciples that managed to stay with him eventually denied him three times. Christ was left alone, he couldn’t convince them to hang in there because of what they were witnessing. May be if they were sure Easter was going to come, they would have stayed. The drama of life does not unravel itself all at once. Learn to be patient with the horrible situations around you because there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Nigeria and Nigerians need to learn this at this point of our national life. Everything seems to speeding in the wrong directions, and moving all at once. In the last one week alone, bandits and kidnappers have killed over 67 persons across the country, and kidnapped 39. There are over 1,500 people in the hands of Kidnappers, Boko Haram and Bandits. The kidnappers have made over N500, 000,000 from the payment of ransom from their victims in the last one year. What a country, what a cloud of Good Friday that has remained for too long in the skies of our country Nigeria. With faith we declare that this too shall pass away. The Joy of the resurrection will once again envelop our land.
With the power of the resurrection, a true Christian is armed with the ability to cope with the most bizarre and seemingly ‘hopeless’ situation. Because He lives we are able to face the future with courage no matter how bad and sour it appears. Some weeks ago, a devout Catholic Family from Portland Indiana in the USA requested I offer Masses for the repose of the soul of their cousin. Chad Sifring. When I wrote an email to condole with them over the dead of their cousin, late Chad’s cousin Tina Dirksen replied with some details about Chad’s father Gene; a story I found incredibly inspiring. With their permission I requested to publish part of the email Tina Dirksen sent to me: “Chad and two other siblings had Myotonic disease which means a breakdown of their muscles. His mother died at 48. Another brother died at 9 months. Gene, my godfather, is the father of the family. He had 3 kids in wheelchairs. His daughter married a man with a partial mental handicap and so Gene takes care of him as well. Gene is on a heart transplant list. His wife had the genetic disease and so he also had to care for her and the children as the disease worsened. He has and is doing a wonderful job giving them whatever responsibility they can handle, bringing them to enjoy whatever they can enjoy, and he does have about 7 grandchildren, who do not have the disease, whom he watches over as often as he can so that he and his disabled children can enjoy them. When Gene married his wife, he was not aware of the disease. He is 74 now and is the most devoted man to his family. He truly is an inspiration for everyone.. He bought a big van so he could hall Grandma, 3 wheel chairs, and his daughter’s husband all in one vehicle. He would take them for drives, to baseball games, basketball games, or out to eat. All of the handicap people are happy and seem to be grateful people. I have not heard them complain and they make us laugh with their stories and comments.”
Myotonic dystrophy is a type of muscular dystrophy, a group of long-term genetic disorders that impair muscle function. Symptoms include gradually worsening muscles loss and weakness. Muscles often contract and are unable to relax, other symptoms may include cataracts, intellectual disability and heart problems. In men, there may be early balding and an inability to have children. There are people in life that have made heaven while here on earth because they approached life’s extraordinary situation in a very ordinary way, giving hope and courage to all those who look up to them. I personally believe Gene is one. His devotion to his three handicapped children may be a normal behavior for many, but for millions of other people it is really an experience worth reflecting over. As we go through our own life’s most challenging situation. Let us know that it is possible to face it because Christ lives. Happy Easter to you all.
Fr Stephen Ojapah is a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is equally the director for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, a member of IDFP. He is also a KAICIID Fellow. (firstname.lastname@example.org)