I recently heard a Naval historian comment that the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan in 1941 could certainly be characterized as a strategic victory at the time, but viewed in larger historical context, it proved to be a disaster for the Japanese. As General Isoroku Yamamoto, commander of the Japanese Navy, is reported to have said, "I fear that all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."
The enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ are often allowed by God to win victories that have serious and difficult consequences for His trusting children. Pits are dug, as it were, into which we fall in seeming defeat and hopelessness. We look around and see with natural eyes and understanding only darkness. No possible solutions or answers seem forthcoming, and prospects for the future portend only of increasing descent into despair. God seems far away, and we may even echo David's plaintive cry uttered from a similar venue of sorrow, "Why standest Thou afar off, O LORD? Why hidest Thou thyself in times of trouble?" (Psalm 10:1).
In such times, born again believers in the Lord Jesus Christ do well to remember the origin and foundation of our faith.
"Though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulchre. But God raised Him from the dead" (Acts 13:28-30; emphasis added).
As King Pyrrhus said after defeating the Romans in several battles at terrible cost to his own army, "One more such victory will undo me!" The Bible doesn't record the reaction of Satan and his minions to the cross, but we might imagine that at least a trace of "Uhoh!" might have passed through their fiendish minds when the Lord Jesus died. Indeed, the cross of Calvary was prelude to the empty tomb of the garden, and the basis for the eternal good of the entire universe in both the present moment and forevermore.
When all seems lost, and our hearts feel shattered beyond repair, Scripture calls us to the "terrible resolve" of trusting God in the light of His Son's empty tomb. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). Just as we consider the pages of history to discover that Pearl Harbor foreshadowed the crushing defeat of the Japanese Empire, so do the the pages of the Bible's prophecy assure us that Calvary ensures a far more crushing defeat of the enemies of God. Without the cross, there could have been no resurrection, and with no resurrection, there would have been no "newness of life" that will ultimate redeem a creation that will forever shine forth with the glory of the risen Christ. "Behold, I make all things new" (Romans 6:4; Revelation 21:5).
Our own crosses portend not of despair, but of glories of light that can only be known because we have passed through the gloom of darkness. "The light shineth in darkness" for those who will open eyes of faith to behold the Lord Jesus risen from the dead not merely in history, but in our story. Or as the Apostle Paul declared of crosses which lead to empty tombs...
"Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal bodies... As dying, and behold, we live!" (II Corinthians 4:10; 6:9).