Day 13: Friday, Good? #28DayChallenge

Good Friday. Was it really good? Definitely not for Jesus or his followers, whose long-awaited Messiah was crucified by the authorities. A little search on the internet suggested that the origin of the word “Good” is an old English word which means “Holy”. If this is correct, then it would be more appropriate to think of the day as “holy” or “hallowed” rather than “good”, which has a completely different meaning in modern English. I also learnt that some other languages utilize a more suitable expression for that day, such as the German expression “Karfreitag“, meaning “Sorrowful Friday“.

In the end, though, the day turned out to be good from the Christian viewpoint, but only in hindsight. Knowing that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins and that he eventually resurrected a few days after complements the sobriety of the Holy Friday with the joy of Easter Sunday. The beatings he took secure our healing and his shame open heaven’s door of mercy to us. However, it was not all joy on that first Easter Sunday, seeing as the disciples were confused and distressed at the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the grave. Only Jesus’ eventual appearance allayed their concerns and revived their hope.

Yet the news was not even sufficient to bring hope to the doubting Thomas, who happened to be unavailable at Jesus’ first appearance to his other disciples. He had to see for himself to truly believe. And so, Jesus declares that those who believe his resurrection without seeing Him are blessed. He knew only a few persons would see him before He ascended to heaven, and so the testimony of His witnesses and the faith of future hearers would be equally important.

The onus then lies on us who have believed to share this wonderful news with everyone who would listen- the blessings that the horrors of pain and death Jesus endured confer on us, and the living hope that his resurrection and ascension to heaven provide for us. Because Jesus lives, we too can live – not just in our natural state, but in a renewed, transformed state of heart. Spreading this good news would be appropriate seeing as we have embraced the use of “Good Friday” and even get an official holiday to mark the day.

If you are reading this and have not embraced the good news about Jesus, what are you waiting for? He died for you and me, so we would no longer live in our sins, but receive forgiveness from our sins and have access to God our Maker. Turn from your sins and call on Him right away! And if you do, you can be sure that you will be saved; He never turns anyone away. This is where I take a pause today – we continue this blogging journey tomorrow. Stay blessed!

Blessed are those who Mourn

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted (Matt. 5:4, NIV)

Hello! Happy New Year to you. I hope your 2022 is coming along well. I pray it will be a year of growth and maturity in your faith, one without limits and boundaries. I pray that through God’s wisdom you will exceed your greatest imagination in your work and experience God’s fulness in every aspect of your life every day.

I wanted to take a few moments to share some things I have been learning with you. In the first quarter of this year, we have been focusing on “The Beatitudes” in my local church. The Beatitudes reflect the ideals of God’s kingdom. Through them, Jesus teaches us who is considered blessed, lucky, or enviable by God’s standard – and they are opposite to what an average human being would imagine!

For today, I will focus on one beatitude, “Blessed are those mourn”. The mere suggestion that one who mourns is blessed is bizarre to many of us. How should we consider a sorrowful person blessed? We all want to be happy always. Why then does the Lord call one who mourns “blessed”? Because they will be comforted? As sensible as that sounds, being comforted only sounds like a remedy for the problem. Should we not consider one who does not have to mourn blessed? Of course, Jesus is not asking that we create situations where we mourn, he is only speaking to the blessedness of those who find themselves in such experiences (usually, all of us, at one point or the other).

We must recognize that equity and justice are key elements of God’s kingdom. So, God’s purpose is always to give disadvantaged people the opportunity to be restored to a state others exist in. This is the first key message behind this beatitude. The Lord recognizes that human life is often besieged by sorrow, so he reaches out to tell those who mourn or grieve that they will receive comfort. The unique blessedness of such comfort is that it is the Lord Himself who brings them comfort, and this enables them to comfort others (2 Cor. 1:4). Experiencing God’s comfort also brings us into a closer relationship with him, so our lives reflect His wisdom and guidance in our daily choices and decisions.

As humans, we are born naked and possess nothing. We then begin to acquire knowledge, relationships, possessions, and wealth. If we lose any of these during our lives, it brings us grief or causes us to mourn. Especially painful is the loss of a loved one. Yet that very loss is a reminder of whence we came and an opportunity to draw near to God as we attempt to fill the void. Indeed, loss finds a place in God’s plan for our lives – tough as that can be to say or accept. Our drawing near to God in moments of grief is a unique experience that allows God to touch, not just our thoughts or desires, but our emotions, raw as they may be. We experience true divine healing as God opens our hearts to love beyond loss(es).

A second key message tied to the blessedness of mourning is the message of repentance. Sin draws us away from God and leads to the loss of the greatest thing in life – our connection with God. And so, it is those who truly recognize and mourn this unique loss, mourning their depravity and fallen nature, their wickedness, and moral failures, that can truly be considered blessed because then they find divine comfort in forgiveness of sins and restoration to God. (Psa. 32:1-2). Such people arise with zeal for the Lord and with a determination to help restore others to God because they know the difference between darkness and light. One who mourns or grieves for their sins is truly blessed!

Mourning, whether for our natural losses or our sins (the sins of others) is considered a blessing only because it provides an opportunity for God to comfort us and strengthen our relationship with him. In moments of grief, we experience God’s nearness the most, because we are at our most vulnerable. But if we do not draw near to God in those moments, then the mourning goes to waste and there is no blessedness. May God draw our heart to repentance concerning sins we have glossed over, and may He truly bring us comfort if/when we experience natural losses. Amen!

God is near to those who are broken-hearted and saves such as have a contrite spirit (Psa. 34:18, NKJV)

A Christmas to Remember

When I was thirteen, an event took place that forever altered my understanding of the purpose of Christmas. It was on the morning of Christmas day. We had prepared to go to church, all dressed fine and ready to show off to everyone how gorgeous we were looking. We had just finished a sumptuous meal of fried rice and chicken, our favourite for such special days. And my mom just knew how to make such meals memorable. All was going as expected. My younger sister made a little fuss about her eye-glasses, which was coming apart. With what looked like a flip of his hand, my dad fixed the glasses and averted what could have been a major cause of trouble that beautiful morning. Then he called on my mum to hurry up and not spend the whole day dressing up. She replied that she could not come out looking rough – typical of my mother. My sister and I were just in a hurry to get it all going…

A piercing scream from our neighbour’s flat temporarily suspended our thriving Christmas mood. It was undoubtedly an appeal for succour. I hesitated briefly and found myself standing alone in the living room. Every other person had run in the direction of the screaming voice. I briefly wondered to whom the highly-pitched voice belongs; it was clearly that of a woman. I had never heard anyone with such a voice in that compound of ours: trouble can make people do what is otherwise impossible. I was also temporarily annoyed at the sudden break in the flow of the day’s event. While I was selfishly gloating over nothing in our flat, my dad was busy trying to resuscitate our neighbour in the other flat, while my mum and sister anxiously looked on. After about a minute of hesitation, I dragged my feet to go on and join them to see what had happened – these women sometimes made an issue out of nothing. I had figured that whatever happened, my dad would have taken charge, plus the scream had died down after they must have gotten there.

I quietly eased my way into the troubled flat. It belonged to a young couple who had been married for less than two years and were yet to have a child, although the woman already had a protruding belly. I met everyone looking desperate, including the wife of our Catholic neighbour upstairs and the whole family of the Pentecostals who lived adjacent to them. The man of the house lay on the ground, stretched out with his hands by his sides and looking unconscious. I could not imagined what had happened to him. The women were trying to calm his young wife down and take her into the room, especially because of her pregnancy, while the men kept trying different first aid measures they knew. The children simply looked on in confusion. In my foolishness, I blurted out what I felt needed to be done at the moment, “Take him to the hospital now!” But those men knew better and were only waiting for the woman to be taken in before announcing their verdict – the man had given up the ghost. When she was later told about her young husband’s death, she let out another scream of infinitely higher pitch, so high it almost destroyed my eardrum…

That day, I knew the voice of sorrow. It was unique in an indescribable way. Perhaps more disturbing was the look I saw on the face of that troubled woman as she attempted to let out the pain and sorrow of her loss in a single scream. It was heart-breaking. Add the look on her face to the sound of her voice and you get a special effect one cannot communicate, but can only comprehend. I later gathered the rest of the story from my family. The man had complained of sharp painful stabs in his chest the previous night, and resolved to make a quick visit to the hospital on Christmas morning. But that visit was never to be, as he suddenly fell clutching his chest while dressing up to go out that tragic Christmas morning. Moods were suddenly altered, and plans were modified, as my parents had to see to the transportation of the man’s body to the hospital, where he was confirmed dead – a fact we already knew. And the women had to stay with the bereaved woman, whose daylight had been transformed into the darkness of death.

Amidst the overwhelming reality of tragedy on a Christmas day, I was deeply immersed in my own thoughts. What could this woman, and her unborn baby, could have done to deserve this? Did this kind of thing happen to a lot of families? Or did the rest of the world simply go on rejoicing while one woman suffered deeply in a season of celebration? Could God not put a hold on occurrence of evil while we celebrate and then let it continue well after celebration was over? What did Christmas mean to God anyway – the birth of Jesus? Was the birth of Jesus not supposed to mean the redemption of the world? Why then were people perishing? Out of selfish concern for a disrupted day, I mulled endlessly over several thoughts until I fell asleep on the couch in the living room, where I was alone and the TV was prattling away in what seemed like a strange language, given my present predicament. My sister had long succumbed to the power of the Somnolent Spirit, and my parents were out on account of the day’s occurrence.

When I awoke, I had literally slept over the thoughts in my mind before I drifted off to sleep. Like a flash of lightning, understanding dawned on me as I awoke – evil would never cease as long as the earth remains, neither would good. Everyone who is kept from evil must remain thankful to God. While we cannot keep evil from being in the earth, we can submit to God who is able to keep us from the Evil One and his deeds. And we must extend our hands of love to those who are not as privileged as we are, especially in our seasons of celebration. I had no dreams, no visions, no revelations. This four-fold understanding just opened up in my mind as I woke up that quiet afternoon. I never hope to see such a day again as long as I have breath. But the realisation that hit me that day left me completely transformed. Every Christmas, and on several other days, I still remember those two screams; each one revisiting me in succession amidst all the sobbing and weeping which accompanied them that day. And with the memory of the tragedy comes the memory of the truths I realised. It was indeed, a Christmas to remember.

December 31, 2011