The Resurrection Reframes Everything
The Emmaus Road story is a story of irony and reversal. Quite literally, two disillusioned disciples made a U-turn when their eyes were opened to recognize Jesus in the village of Emmaus, and they returned "that same hour" to Jerusalem. But their physical round-trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus and back was the outworking of the U-turn that took place in their souls, as they went from misplaced hope to unbelief to true faith.
The pivotal reality that reversed everything was the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection reframed the events of the preceding days--the betrayal, arrest, false trial, brutal beating, cruel mocking, and violent murder of Jesus. The devastating sufferings of Jesus first caused these disciples to conclude that he wasn't really the Messiah.
But the resurrection, along with a new understanding of all that Moses and the Prophets taught, caused the disciples to draw a radically different conclusion from the exact same events. The sufferings of Jesus didn't mean he wasn't the Messiah; the sufferings of Jesus meant that he was the Messiah who was "pierced for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities," as Isaiah foretold (Isaiah 53:5).
The Resurrection Reframes Everything
But the resurrection of Jesus doesn't stop at reframing our understanding of his sufferings. His resurrection reframes our understanding of all suffering. This is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17:
"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison."
Did you catch that? There is a connection between our present suffering and our future glory. This light momentary affliction is preparing an eternal weight of glory. That is, our future joy will be greater and our future glory will be weightier because of (not in spite of) the trials of this life.
Listen to how Tim Keller explains this in The Reason for God:
“The Biblical view of things is resurrection--not a future that is a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.”
In other words, the reality of resurrection isn't God's way of saying, "Hey, sorry for all that trouble. Here's something to make up for it and erase the trauma of your past." The hope of the resurrection doesn't simply tell us to suck it up now because at least the future won't be so bad. God, who raised Jesus from the dead, is able to redeem everything, including our past trauma.
Have you ever had your love or appreciation for someone (or something) deepened because of an absence? Imagine losing your 5-year-old child in a place like Disney World. One minute he's right beside you, and the next minute he's gone. The anxiety, fear, and panic would be overwhelming. Is he safe? Did someone take him?
Now imagine being reunited with your child and finding out that he was safe the whole time. The temporary experience of losing your child would cause a heightened experience of joy and love for your child when you finally have him safely in your arms. It's reasonable to think that losing him momentarily would cause you to hug him a little tighter than you would have after riding It's a Small World together.
Agony into Glory
C. S. Lewis says it like this:
“They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory."
The hope of resurrection isn't hope in a future so far removed from our suffering that we're able to forget about it. It's the hope of a reality that redeems everything, even transforming our trials into experiences that deepen our delight in the glory of God. One day, being united with Jesus in a resurrection like his (Romans 6:5), we will be able to look at the exact same events that once caused us so much pain and say, "Knowing what I know now, and feeling what I feel now, I wouldn't trade that pain, that loss, that grief, or that agony for anything."