Why do they call it good Friday when it’s bad?
I always wanted to know that as a kid.
Back then, I understood it as because it was bad news for Jesus and good news for us – his suffering had brought us to God by dying to take away our sin. I didn’t dwell on why he had to suffer (why not a quick death?) and still puzzled about why it was called good Friday.
It looked like the blackest day of history, the final defeat. If the person of God can be killed, the eternal one drawing his final breath, what hope for creation? We are left in anarchy and darkness. Evil laughs because death has the final say. No wonder the disciples fled and the women wept.
We know, in hindsight, that it is not the end of the story, that Sunday is coming. You would expect it to say, ‘Bad Friday, then Good Sunday.’ I want to call my own suffering and dark times bad – for they are – and it often seems like evil is mocking us when we face defeat after defeat, loss after loss, sorrow upon sorrow.
Today, however, the act of calling it good is challenging me. How were the disciples to know, even with the clues Jesus had given them, that this tragedy was ultimate victory? They couldn’t foresee it until they witnessed the resurrection, death forced to march backwards and unravel itself.
Sometimes it feels like you’re mired in hopelessness, and you just can’t see ahead. Others around dance in resurrection light, but all you can think of is where you will live, what will become of you, what that diagnosis means, where the money will come from, when the pain will end.
Good Friday. There is something to it that beckons me to look again. I once thought of Jesus’ suffering as unnecessary (why not the quick death?) Now it is his passion and desperation that comforts me in my struggles and the sufferings of the world.
On this Friday, we remember Jesus crying out, struggling to breathe, sharing how forsaken he felt and yet his ultimate trust in God. This is the mystery of God-self, forsaken by God-self. This was the abject suffering that God experienced: not just the physical pain and humiliation but the utter desolation and loneliness that accompanies our suffering, too.
Jesus’ death was bad.
And yet, the suffering itself had value and would provide comfort to those in the future who did not realise a victorious God could also be a suffering, weeping God. The suffering is bad; the suffering is good.
We could call it bad Friday, and I still want to. Suffering is still suffering; evil is still evil. But it is not the end of the story.
Even before the suffering has an end or is redeemed, it is honoured, it is valuable in some mysterious way I struggle to understand. Jesus’ suffering was the ultimate bad, achieving the ultimate good. When faced with the excruciating suffering of the world, I want to hold that mystery.
Before Sunday comes, in the mystery of suffering, in faith, we call it Good Friday, when it still looks like Bad Friday. In this upside-down kingdom of God, we say that the poor and weak are blessed above others, and even this needless, horrifying suffering has worth in itself, it carries hope.
If suffering has stolen your joy and you can no longer stretch to resurrection and Sunday blessings, I dare to prophesy to you: it is still a Good Friday, and God is there with you.
Tweetables:'The suffering is bad; the suffering is good.' - The Good Bad Friday Click To Tweet 'In faith, we call it Good Friday, when it still looks like Bad Friday' Click To Tweet For those who cannot celebrate Easter joy because they are suffering and sad - this one's for you: The Good Bad Friday Click To Tweet
Over to you:
- When have you felt like your life was one continuous Good Friday with no end of suffering in sight?
- What does it mean to you that Christ suffered? To what extent does it help you face your own and the world’s suffering?
Those Who Wait: Finding God in Disappointment, Doubt and Delay – now with over 70! reviews at Amazon.co.uk (4.8*) – for those who wait (impatiently). It’s making a powerful difference in people’s lives. Get your copy here.
And for a free copy of my first book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty sign up here.