It is finished: Do tough times challenge the “good” in Good Friday?
Salt&Light // March 30, 2018, 7:00 am
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
“On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
the emblem of suffering and shame,
and I love that old cross where the dearest and best,
for a world of lost sinners was slain.” (George Bennard, 1913)
The finished work of the cross is foundational to the Christian faith.
It is love’s object lesson. It is grace and strength for this life. It is a promise of wholeness and healing for the next. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)
On Good Friday, the world’s Christians with all our various voices and accents and traditions unite to commemorate the one thing that Jesus Christ gave us that we needed the most as a fallen humanity: Victory over certain death.
The darkest act of hate was turned into the greatest expression of love.
Does an event that happened over 2,000 years ago still have practical application for us today?
Salt&Light posed this question to those who have met, are still meeting, the blunt challenges of this life:
What does the finished work of the cross mean to you?
“Despair and depression will definitively end”
– Journalist Wendy Wong, 25, who battled depression
“When I battled a period of depression in 2016, everything just felt grey and painful and meaningless, and I think that was when I really understood the word ‘despair’.
“I cried a lot … for two to three hours on end and curling up on the floor and not being able to breathe. Everything felt horribly hopeless, like the worst kind of nightmare you could have.
“The finished work of Christ means that it is all over. My despair and depression will definitively end, as Jesus paid my debts once and for all, wrestled me from Satan’s hold, unshackled me from the chains of sin, and saved me from the resulting suffering faced on earth. The tears that fall today will be gently wiped away with His own hands one day.”
“Living a 10/10 life and not a 5/10 life”
– Author Emily Lim, 46, lost her voice to a rare disorder in her 20s
“I was afflicted with spasmodic dysphonia, a rare voice disorder, for 10 years. I tried various medical treatments but couldn’t find a cure. Finally, I took a step of faith to believe in Jesus as the Author of my salvation, and was baptised in 2006.
“Since Jesus has already paid the price for my sicknesses and transgressions on the cross, I should stop listening to the couldn’t be, shouldn’t be and shouldn’t have.”
“In 2007, the breakthrough in my understanding came through John 10:10: ‘The thief only comes to steal and kill and destroy. Jesus came so that everyone can have life and have it to the fullest.’
“To me, living life to the fullest meant living a life that was 10/10, not 5/10. I had felt like half a person because I had been so crippled by the voice disorder. I had trouble seeing any future ahead.
“Since Jesus has already paid the price for my sicknesses and transgressions on the cross, I realised then that I should stop listening to the negative thoughts that made me feel that I couldn’t be, shouldn’t be and shouldn’t have. I started to believe that God had a fuller life ahead for me.
“Gradually my voice started to recover. In late 2007, I was gifted with a new voice when I became a published author. I have continued writing since.”
“My heart can stop trying to blame anyone or anything”
– Interior designer Yileen Ang, 25, lost her father to bile duct cancer
“In June, 2016 , my father went to his final rest after a year-long, gruesome battle with cancer. Although that was the closest encounter I’d had with death, I had witnessed its devastation before. Now, it seemed I had every reason and right to despise and wage war against death.
“It means the pain and separation which death causes does not have the final word. The cross does.”
“However, the finished work of the cross tells a different story – one of hope, not bitterness.
“It means the pain and separation which death causes does not have the final word. The cross does. It means my heart can stop trying to blame anyone or anything, or wage war against an enemy whom my God conquered when He rose again. Finally, it means that I am free to mourn, and I am free to mourn while holding onto the hope of a new kingdom where death will be no more!”
“We have a miracle-working God”
– inspiredkeys.com teacher Sandra Chen, 30s, suffered a miscarriage
“My husband and I were happy to conceive a baby soon after we got married in 2010, but after a miscarriage in 2011, years of trying, and some fertility treatment in 2016, I just wasn’t able to conceive.
“There were countless times when I would plead with the Lord for a baby in great discouragement, and countless other times we were prayed for at altar calls.
“In our seventh year of our marriage, while we were preparing to migrate to another country and weren’t on any particular fertility treatment, the Lord sprang a surprise on us: A positive pregnancy test! He is a miracle-working God.
“Today, our firstborn son is five-and-a-half months old. God works in His timing, and He knows what our journeys in life look like. Perhaps God made us wait that long to humble our otherwise arrogant hearts, but because of His finished work on the cross, we can trust in Him with all our hearts, and also trust that He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).”
“The lived experience of God’s presence”
– Retired investment consultant Michelle Chian, 56, underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer
“I spent last Easter wondering if I had breast cancer. I had found a lump a couple of weeks before and had an appointment to see a breast surgeon friend after Easter, meanwhile praying for God to just take away the lump over Easter, for wasn’t healing one of the possibilities of the finished work of the cross?
“But gauging the reaction of my breast surgeon friend as she looked at the ultrasound screen, I knew this wasn’t going to be the quick fix that I desired. She did a biopsy and told me that it would be a good idea for my husband to come along for the biopsy results. Even though I’m not a particularly anxious person, I tasted the fear of my own death for the first time that sleepless night.
“What did this mean for me, for my family? Would I not get to see my sons married and grandchildren born?
“Grace is the empowering presence of God to be everything you are called to be and to do everything you are called to do.”
“However, some time close to dawn, Jesus reminded me that He came that I may have life abundantly, and that I did not need to let the thief steal my peace (John 10:10). Also, my son had written a verse across the glass door to my study: “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). As I recalled these words, fear lifted off me and I felt ready to face down the cancer with God.
“Fast forward to this Easter, after chemotherapy and surgery, there is no evidence of disease remaining in me (I was diagnosed as Stage 2a with a 3cm aggressively growing tumour). Hallelujah! I have experienced the reality and sufficiency of God’s grace in every aspect of my life during the process.
“What is grace? A definition which sits well with me is this: “Grace is the empowering presence of God to be everything you are called to be and to do everything you are called to do”. I found grace in the love and care of family and friends who rallied around me – praying, chemo-sitting and sending books, fruit and messages.
“I found grace in the kindness of my doctors and nurses. I found grace in being able to mostly sleep through the worst days of chemotherapy, wrapped in the arms of Jesus. I found grace in my complete response to treatment. I found grace, and peace and joy, all around me, because God let me know, in very tangible ways, that He was always there for me.
“This, to me, is the finished work of the cross: The incomparable privilege of lived experience of God’s presence in my life.”
“A forever testimony of hope everlasting”
– Pastor Felicia Goh-Ong, 33, diagnosed with lupus during pregnancy
“When I was 26 weeks pregnant with my first child, I was diagnosed with lupus – that posed a serious threat to my pregnancy. I was extremely ill, could barely eat, and the baby had stopped growing much at the point. I was advised to see a fetal abnormality specialist and he said that there was a high chance that our baby may develop severe abnormality, the kind that was incompatible with life.
“He is our miracle baby, our forever testimony of Jesus, who overcame the power of sin and death to bring life and hope everlasting.”
“We shared the news with our trusted friends and leaders in church who rallied around us in prayer. It was a crisis of faith for my husband Yi Kwee and me – up to that point we had led fairly smooth lives. Nothing had quite tested us the way this lupus diagnosis did.
“I imagined what it must have been like for the disciples to have been following Jesus, only to be faced with the worst news possible: The death and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Was it all over? Where would they go from there? But then, three days later, they were presented with the best news possible: The resurrection of Jesus Christ. Death had been defeated. He had overcome the world, and there was truly an everlasting hope.
“The doctors repeatedly said there wasn’t much we could do but monitor closely, manage my lupus and hope for the best. As we cried out to the Lord in prayer, He gave a vision to one of our leaders who did not know my exact condition but saw the Lord’s hands incubating the baby and assured us that the baby will be alright. Our faith was strengthened and our hope gained strength.
“The best news possible came on Boxing Day, when Ethan was born – all of 1.3kg but with no developmental issues and no need for breathing support. He is our miracle baby, our forever testimony of Jesus, who overcame the power of sin and death to bring life and hope everlasting.”
“We learnt what God’s love really means”
– Lawyer and Facilities Maintenance Manager Michael and Christina Chia, 50s, who lost their son, Noel, to germ cell tumour at age 21
“The death of Jesus, Son of God, on the cross was a tragedy. I think no human at that time thought any good could ever result from it. Jesus’ disciples felt lost and rejected. But anything is possible with God. We all know now that by the work of Christ on the cross and His resurrection, our gracious God took the initiative to redeem us. Ultimate evil resulted in ultimate good.
“We faced much suffering. But God, in His kindness and mercy, allowed Noel to tell us, just before he passed, that he saw Jesus and he had to go.
“We also asked what good could result from Noel’s cancer and untimely return to the Lord. We asked many ‘why’ questions. We pleaded with God for healing. We bargained with God. We claimed the promises in the Word for healing, for restoration. We felt that God was silent in our pleas and struggles.
“We faced many challenges, trials and suffering. But God in His kindness and mercy allowed Noel to tell us, just before he passed, that he saw Jesus and he had to go.
“We are indeed thankful that Jesus revealed himself to Noel and came personally to bring him through the valley of death. We know that one day we will be reunited in heaven.
“Over the past five years since then, we have understood the meaning of God’s love when He sacrificed His Son for mankind. When we are crucified with Christ, we too have to share His sufferings.
“We have grown closer as a family. Christina’s mum and late dad accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour and received salvation. Christina’s elder brother’s family has started going to church. By God’s grace, we have grown deeper in the faith. God is so good.”