The phone rang in the middle of the night and jolted me awake. My husband, Gene, answered, and I soon realized he was receiving devastating news: Our son had been picked up by the police and accused of a serious crime. I couldn't breathe; nausea swept over me. As I tried to stand next to the bed, my knees buckled.
Surely it's a mistake, I thought desperately. But as the hours unfolded, the circumstances surrounding our son's arrest were validated.
That day was more than two years ago. My son's still incarcerated, awaiting a trial that's been postponed repeatedly. My life's changed dramatically during this extended wait. I've watched my dreams for my only child shatter. I've agonized over what I could have done differently as a mother to ensure such a thing would not have happened. Sometimes I feel as though I'm living through an endless Good Friday.
When Jesus died on the cross that Good Friday two thousand years ago, hope (for a moment) was ripped away. Everyone believed he would be the One to redeem Israel from Roman oppression. Then his body was laid in a tomb.
But Easter Sunday arrived. When Mary Magdalene and Mary, Martha's sister, visited Jesus' grave early that morning, they discovered that God's angel had rolled back the stone to reveal a now-empty tomb. The angel told them, "I know you're looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said.… Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, 'He is risen from the dead'" (Matthew 28:6-7, MSG). Because of Christ's resurrection, we now have hope that our faith is true, that God can be trusted, and that we, too, will be resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:13-19).
If I thought for a moment there was no eternity, no heaven, no end to sorrow, no eventual resolution to my personal crisis, I'd want to "check out" right now. But the good news of the Resurrection is the promise that we who believe in Jesus as our Savior will enjoy eternal life (Matthew 25:46) in a place free from sorrow, suffering, or tears (Revelation 21:4).
Incredibly, in the middle of my Good Friday experience, other reasons for hope have emerged. Throughout my family's ordeal, I've learned some lessons that have shown me the same power that brought Jesus Christ back to life is available to us.
I didn't expect this first discovery. In the nights immediately following my son's arrest, depression overtook me like a relentless dark cloud. I wanted to retreat into my grief and sleep away the pain. Yet every day when I awakened, the sun came up—and with it, a surprising sense of renewed hope. How dark Good Friday must have seemed to those who loved Jesus! Yet I'm convinced that when the sun rose that Easter morning to reveal the empty tomb, hope replaced darkness and sadness. For no matter how dark the night, Christ's resurrection reminds us that joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
Jesus promises us, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy" (John 16:20). The friends and family members who've flooded my life with joy in countless ways flesh out this promise for me. For example, days after Gene and I found out about our son, the doorbell rang. There stood a local florist delivering 12 long-stemmed yellow roses. I opened the accompanying note: "You once told us yellow flowers brighten any room. We thought you might need a touch of yellow in your life right now." The note was signed with love from two of my sisters. They had transformed words meant as decorating advice into a gift of joy in my time of crisis! From that point on, my family and friends used yellow—yellow cards, yellow candles, yellow gift-wrapped surprises—to remind me of the Resurrection joy that's available to me in the middle of my journey.
Recently, my close friend Cathy lost her job for the second time within a year. Cathy's a single woman with rent and mounting bills to pay. Last week she wrote, "To me the Resurrection means having God's joy inside me no matter what's going on outside me. When I think of the events leading to the Resurrection—Jesus' beatings, crucifixion, and slow, torturous death—I remember that as I await the right job to surface, I must crucify any negative or angry thoughts and words, and resurrect them as God's peaceful, joyful alternatives." Cathy's living out the Resurrection's good news.
A Faithful Companion
Christ's resurrection ensures that when we enter into a relationship with God as our Father, we have a relationship with Someone who'll never leave us. Recently I spent several hours with a family of three children who are being raised by their mother. The eldest daughter, Anne, burst into tears as she blurted out, "I'm so angry at my father for leaving us, but I'm even angrier at myself for needing him!" I was able to say confidently as I hugged her, "I know you're hurting because you want to experience your father's love. But you have a relationship with Jesus, who won't ever walk out on you. Remember, Anne, God promises in Hebrews 13:5 that he will never leave you or forsake you."
Power to Overcome
I'd always tried to do my best for God, but when my son was incarcerated, I was humiliated, embarrassed, and ashamed. I felt as though I were a failure as a mother! It was all about me—my hurt, my pain, my devastation, my reputation. Only when I looked at my circumstances through the lens of Jesus' death and resurrection did I experience the hope Jesus offers because he arose from the dead.
My friend Nan has stage-4 cancer. She's had all the chemotherapy and radiation she can physically endure. Nan cherishes each day as a valued gift from God. She called recently and enthusiastically said: "I just got off the phone with a telemarketer."
I responded with derision, "Oh, I have a gift for getting rid of those callers quickly."
Nan said, "You don't understand. I told her I'd answer her questions if she'd answer mine. After responding to her questions, I asked her if she knew for sure she'd go to heaven if she died unexpectedly. She said, 'No, but I've had a lot of fear about that.'"
Nan shared the gospel: that because Jesus died and rose again, there's hope and a future to all who believe in him. At the end of their conversation, the telemarketer followed Nan in a prayer to invite Jesus to be her Savior.
Nan's discovered the real power of the Resurrection—that even when our life is interrupted by physical limitations, we can make a difference for all eternity. "Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we've been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now!" (1 Peter 1:3, The Message).
That's the bottom line: There's no situation, no obstacle Christ's resurrection doesn't empower us to overcome, whether it's divorce, infertility, unemployment, depression, cancer, relationship struggles, or fear for our children's future in a world that's rocked by terrorism.
Freedom from Fear
Stacey came into my life unexpectedly. I spoke at a church in Honolulu not long after September 11, and following my presentation, she asked if we could talk. She explained that she was a flight attendant for United Airlines; Boston's Logan Airport was her base of operations. "I usually worked one of the flights that hit the World Trade Center, but September 11 was my day off," she said. "I've been so afraid, I took a leave of absence from my job and returned to my home here. I've come to this church to find out how to deal with my fear." I explained to Stacey that because Jesus died for our sins and rose again, God provided a way for us to find forgiveness, hope, and a future free from fear. That day Stacey invited Jesus to come into her life. Her face beamed as she looked up following that prayer.
So there you have it! The good news of the Resurrection means forgiveness of sin, hope for the future, staying power for the tough times, a Father who loves us, eternal life, authentic joy, and freedom from fear. When we get to know the risen Christ personally, we find hope and joy in the midst of our personal Good Fridays. While this good news will change our lives forever, it doesn't stop there. We just naturally have to tell somebody about it. That's why the good news of the Resurrection goes on and on and on.
Carol Kent, president of Speak Up Speaker Services, a Christian speakers' bureau, and author of Becoming a Woman of Influence (NavPress), lives in Michigan with her husband.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman magazine.