“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Kids ask hard questions. The kind that deserves a more thoughtful, complete answer. Not the rushed, good enough, surface response. I know this, yet I more often respond with the latter. Why? Well, beyond the obvious frenzied pace, I think the deeper reason might be I am still grappling with the answers myself. There are things we don’t understand about life. Things we only learn as we live through them ourselves. And that is a painfully slow, difficult process.
Chloe asked me why the day Jesus died on the Cross is called “Good Friday”. It made more sense to her to call it “bad” because of the things Jesus suffered. His cruel, agonizing death; His public humiliation; His God-forsaken cry of abject horror. When the sinless One bore the sins of the entire wretched world. Indeed, it was bad for Jesus. Very bad. The worst, in fact. A suffering unequaled, before or since. Why is that “good”?
The theologically sound answer is, of course, what Jesus accomplished for us on that Cross. His atoning sacrifice for us, “the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him”, “By His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53). We know Jesus took our place. He became sin that we might become the righteousness of God; justified freely by His grace in which we now stand. The Good Shepherd laid down His life willingly for His helpless, hopelessly lost sheep. And we have seen and testify that His suffering has been transformed into glory. We claim a Risen Lord, who emerged from the empty tomb on Easter morn and forever swallowed up death in victory. We cling to the hope we have in Him, professing that we too will one day rise from these ashes. We will be changed in the twinkling of eye when we meet our Lord face to face.
And all of this is good. Undoubtedly, eternally for our good, to the glory of God!
But is this answer sufficient? Does it tell the whole story? Does it look long enough into the face of our suffering servant, Jesus? Honor His reverent submission to His Father? The ultimate good He accomplished for us? Does looking forward to Sunday speak to those hopelessly trapped in a painful, dark Friday?
Two years ago, my neighbor lost his wife unexpectedly on Good Friday. He called to ask me to open the garage for the paramedics. I stood outside feeling helpless as car after car rushed onto the scene. Workers running full sprint into the house, pulling on blue gloves as they ran. I waited in the driveway, praying. I told my neighbor, “God is a miracle-working God”. I looked hard into his frightened eyes, then watched him go, trying hard to believe in something good from all this. But soon after, she died. All talk of miracles silenced in the choking grip of death. A family plunged into unspeakable grief and despair. And, indelibly, Good Friday became bad. Marked by the irreplaceable loss of a wife and mother.
How does Friday become good for those still standing at the foot of a broken life, lost hope, irretrievable loss? How can we lift our eyes to see beyond where we are? This is the chasm from Friday to Sunday. The leap that reaches for the good out of the bad. And it is only bridged by eyes of faith.
“When the rich young ruler approached Jesus, he said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: do not murder, do not commit adultery…”
“Teacher, he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy”.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack…go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me”.
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus said to the disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God…with man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:17-27)”.
I didn’t know what to say to my neighbor after his wife died. I didn’t want to minimize his painful Friday with shining talk of Sunday. I’m still not sure I am answering Chloe’s questions completely, as I continue to live the questions myself. But this I know – I don’t want to miss the Lord’s look of love like the rich young ruler did. His face fell and he went away sad. He couldn’t part with the things he held dearly, like we sometimes cannot rise to see past our pain. To believe in the goodness of a God who is transforming our suffering into glory with each forward reaching step of faith we are willing to take. Today, it is enough for me to stand at the foot of the Cross. To meet the loving eyes of my Savior as He looks down on me in love. To let His love pierce me like the nails once pierced His flesh, and know it was His Father’s good pleasure not to spare His own Son’s suffering. To believe, as I willingly walk through the tragedy of Friday, Sunday will come.
And it is good. Undoubtedly, eternally for our good, to the glory of God!