If you want to talk about having a bad day—a day of death-dealing suffering—Good Friday certainly would qualify. While the “good” in that day is related to God’s love gift of His Son, the Good Shepherd, laying down His life for the sheep, it was, nonetheless, a very bad day.
Although the dimension of Jesus’ suffering at Calvary transcends our understanding, the dynamics of what He endured are painfully appropriate to our human experience. Betrayal, injustice, brutality and loneliness are common to bad days we all have.
In studying the words spoken by Jesus on the Cross, we find companionship and direction for our own “bad days.” And so, more than a decade ago, I was prompted to write a small book about Jesus’ seven statements as an encouragement to those of us who are answering His call to discipleship and “the fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).
I could have never anticipated the impact and timing of this book’s publication in September 2001. Its release coincided with an overwhelmingly “bad day” for our nation and our world, a day in which thousands of innocent people were slain, families were torn apart by loss of loved ones or jobs, and our sense of security was shattered at every level of daily life. The publisher immediately shipped thousands of gift copies to encourage firefighters and police officers in New York and Washington, D.C. Over the next several months, including the Christmas holidays, readers of the book found themselves buying multiple copies as gifts to help others needing to know how to cope, and how to hope.
Six years later, the book was re-released under a new title, “Hope For a Hopeless Day,” and rewritten to include the testimony of my own most hopeless day, when I was confronted by the sudden death of a precious family member in 2003.
Every day, many of us struggle to cope and hope through “bad days.” But if we look to Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith,” we realize that “bad day” on Calvary became one which we now call “Good”. And how it became that can be learned from the message inherent in our Lord’s seven statements from the Cross.
1. Forgive everyone who’s trying to ruin your life.
“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
Through the spirit of forgiveness, Jesus retains control of the situation when it appears He’s being victimized by it. He is mastering the moment; the moment is not controlling Him. Forgiving those who seek to injure us is to be unfettered by the anger or retaliation that would seek to attach itself to us.
2. Help others who are experiencing the same struggle.
“Assuredly I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The criminals on either side of Jesus are experiencing exactly the same agony and suffering as He is. Rather than focusing on His own pain, He extends His concern to those who are struggling with infinitely less resources than He has. In a bad day, it’s important to recognize that others are having it just as tough rather than becoming preoccupied with our own problems.
3. Be sure you’re taken care of those near you.
“Woman, behold your son… Behold your mother.” (John 19:26, 27)
Although Jesus is surrounded by turmoil, He is concerned about His mother’s personal plight and establishes a domestic responsibility for John to take. We have a great tendency to presume that those who are closest to us understand our dilemma and will absorb it along with us. It’s not the spirit of a disciple of Jesus to say, “It’s been a bad day for me, so it’s going to be a bad day for everyone around me, too.” Don’t transmit your trauma.
4. Aim your hard questions at God, not man.
“My God, My God, why have You forsake Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
When you feel sure you’ve lost touch with heaven—aim your hard questions at God, not man. Although human beings may sympathize, none of them have the answer. Job and his comforters are a classic study in how human philosophies fail. Cry out to God. He doesn’t mind our complaints, and although He may seem absent, He’s never far away.
5. Be human enough to acknowledge your need.
“I thirst!” (John 19:28)
Earlier, Jesus turns down the offer of a pain-dulling drink that could have satiated thirst but would have reduced His mental acuity. He chooses to retain command of His senses. Here Jesus asks for a drink because He wants to clear His throat for the confession of faith He’s about to make next. There is no one so spiritual that you can make it through a bad day without people to help you clarify the stance you’re taking of trusting in God.
6. Be assured, there is a purpose and an end.
“It is finished!” (John 19:30)
These are the words we most love about the Cross because they are the declaration of Jesus completing our salvation before He dies. Everything has been fulfilled. It’s a statement of triumph that doesn’t see the victory yet, but lays hold of it by faith. There’s nothing that besets us that God’s hand and purpose won’t work in if we move with Him through a bad day. Just like He did with Jesus, God can turn our bad day into a redemptive event.
7. Finally, surrender your day to God, and let it go.
“Into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 24:46)
The end of a bad day can be the start of a long night of reliving the struggle with bewildering concern: “When will this finally end?” But the way to go through a bad day is to get it into the hands of God and leave it there. That was how the agony of Calvary came to its conclusion. This was not a statement of wearied resignation but one of trust. From the human perspective, Jesus’ words indicate a colossal act of trust in the Father and His fidelity to His own Word.
Copyright 2002, 2007, 2014 by Jack W. Hayford. Jack Hayford Ministries