Monday, January 31, 2011

How to Live Through a Bad Day: Seven Powerful Insights from Christ's Words on the Cross by Jack Hayford

How To Live Through A Bad Day Seven Powerful Insights From Christ's Words On The CrossHow To Live Through A Bad Day Seven Powerful Insights From Christ's Words On The Cross by Jack Hayford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book a few years ago, because it definitely had a message I needed to hear. I was in a very stressful job and I was dealing with a coworker who seemed out to get me, to undermine every support system I had in that job, and to turn everyone against me. Since then, I’ve taken this book to work with me and kept it handy. I’ve even started reading it a few times. Today, I read the whole book. It is a remarkable thing how the Holy Spirit can prompt you, direct you exactly where you need to go. I needed to read this book right now.

This book is structured around the representation of Jesus’ time on the Cross, containing seven lessons that are taken from Jesus’ actions and words on the Cross. The seven principles are as follows (taken directly from the book):
1. Forgive anyone--no, everyone--who seems set on ruining your life.
2. Though beset yourself, focus on encouraging others who are struggling and uncertain.
3. Be sure you are sensitive and loving, certain to take care of those who are near you.
4. When seemingly impossible questions come, aim them at God, not at man.
5. Whatever your adequacy, never be above making known your need for help.
6. Embrace the certainty that God’s “finishes” always have a purpose and an end.
7. Surrender everything to God and let go.

The beauty of this book is, Mr. Hayford doesn’t introduce anything new here. He just prompts the reader to consider what has been laid out before all Christians. We read about Christ’s crucifixicion, and we thank Him for it, remembering that it was done for our salvation. However, here we are urged to look at what He did, and what it means for our life beyond our salvation from sin. It was as if a lightbulb went on for me. I always knew that Jesus was well aware of everything He did. He chose to go to the Cross. He did it for those who would believe in Him. I also knew that He is my model for how I should live my life. Jesus urged all His followers to take up their Crosses and to follow in His footsteps. That is one of the toughest jobs a Christian will have. Because we embrace His suffering when we take up our Crosses. We embrace the scorn that He himself felt. We embrace the abuse that the Lord suffered. We won’t actually be crucified, at least most of us Christians in a modern world. But emotionally and socially we will face scorn and derision. It’s just part of living in this world as His followers.

What this book teaches me is that there is a way to look at these events and allow them to speak to my spirit and to show me how to glorify Christ, and even more profoundly, how to use the lessons that Jesus gave me to triumph over those daily sufferings.

I will say here and now, forgiving someone, truly forgiving someone, is one of the hardest things a person can do. Yes, even Christians. We build walls around our hearts, and when someone manages to get past those defenses, and to hurt us, all we can think about is how wrong that person is. Well, it’s obvious that they wronged us. But, as Jesus said, “They know not why they do it.” What Mr. Hayford pointed out was that a person can sin intentionally against another, but deep down, they may not realize how much they hurt us, or the consequences of it. Even if I have trouble with this, I know one thing, Jesus forgave me what I have done, what I continue to do, what I will do, and he didn’t make qualifications. He forgave me because that is what love is. I have to keep praying for God to give me His forgiving heart, because forgiving is a supernatural work. But, if anyone can give me the ability to do so, it’s Him. And in the end, I am better off, because my heart is not weighted down by bitterness and hatred for another. I am lighter and freer to live my life, if I can let go of my unforgiveness for others who have wronged me.

Helping Others
I have found this to be very true. When I spend my time focusing on how sucky things are for me, it just becomes this vicious cycle that brings my spirits ever lower. But, if I get out of my own head, and turn my focus away from what’s wrong with my life, and reach other to others in need, that balm of healing does its work. I truly believe our job is to help others and to fellowship with others. It’s not an easy thing for me at times. I am a loner, and I am an introvert. However, I know that God gave me a spirit to help others, even if it makes my life uncomfortable, and many of my troubles come from putting myself out there for others, when I’d be better off staying in my own quiet little corner of the world. In the end, despite the agonies that result, the payoff is so rich. To know that you helped someone, to know that you ministered as the Lord ministers to you…that’s a good feeling. I didn’t see the movie, but it’s definitely “Paying it Forward,” and the returns are great, in the end.

Using Your Suffering to Aid Others Who Suffer
I learned years ago in biblical lessons about why God became Jesus and came to earth. He did it so he would know intimately what His children go through in this world, in this life. Jesus was fully human, but also God. He suffered as no person on earth has, on the Cross, and he refused to take the easy route. He knew beforehand how He would suffer, which is why he prayed in the Garden of Gethesemene for God to take away his Cup. In the end, He didn’t shirk his duty. He took everything on Himself willingly, and He did it for this reason. He did it out of love for us. So, when you feel as though God couldn’t possibly know what you are going through, remember that He does. And turn that around. When you see someone going through something awful, and you’ve suffered in your life, reach out to them, and minister to them in their time of need. You might not exactly have gone through what they have, but you know what it’s like to feel pain and agony, so use that experience, and how you got through it to help someone else. Yes, I have heard this before, but it’s good to be reminded.

God Wants You to Come to Him With the Tough Questions
Just like Jesus cried on the Cross to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”, Christians (and I believe those who are truly seeking the Lord but haven’t found Him) have the privilege to do the same with the Lord. Don’t run away from God when you feel ugly about things, when you are in the deepest, darkest agony. Cry out to Him, and ask Him why you are suffering. You might not get an easy answer, but you will gain the peace of Christ, which surpasses all understanding by approaching Him and communing with Him. The Lord will never turn away one of His children who earnestly seeks Him and calls onto Him for His help. The word of God backs this up in many, many scriptures. Whenever I am in my darkest moods, I remind myself of this, and it is so true. And remember, that Jesus did this very thing on the Cross. Remember that no matter where you are, how deep and dark the depths of your suffering are, God is with you. He said He would never leave or forsake His Children, and He meant it. He said that those who call on the Lord would be saved, and I believe it. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in the excruciating intensity of our pain that we just forget that He is there because we are hurting so bad, but He is right there with us, wiping away our tears.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Others For Help
This is very hard for me. I don’t like to be perceived as weak. I like to keep my vulnerabilities hidden. Because I have learned that people will often attack you when they see you are weak. But, the Lord made it clear that we need each other. That’s why the Lord calls His believers the Body of Christ. Together we are able to function as a better whole. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t carry our own weight. Remember that Jesus carried His Cross, although others helped Him on the road to Golgotha. And He also asked for a drink before He said His last words. Mr. Hayford states that Jesus did this as a lesson. He wanted to show that even the Lord was not too strong to ask for help when He needed it. So should his children. If you are truly suffering, don’t go off like a wounded animal about to die, when you might need to be around friends and loved ones who can minister to you. Let them know you need their help. It might even be something small. If you need some time alone, ask someone to keep an eye on things for you while you take the time to regroup. Sometimes our way of helping others is allowing them to feel as though they can help you, that they are important to you. My sister is a wise woman. I will lay my troubles out for her, and she knows just what to say. Sometimes I might feel silly expressing that something bothered me when it probably wouldn’t bother a ‘stronger’ person. Well, us Christians have to remember that we are strongest when we admit our weakness, because His grace is sufficient for us. And the Grace of God is the truest strength. So, even when I feel silly, I will tell her my troubles, even if I could just share them with God and not lose face. But I must remember that, just by asking for her advice, I am following the Lord’s example, getting the help I need, and often hearing His words speak through her. God didn’t put us on earth by ourselves. We have each other to help us. Don’t be too proud to ask for help when you need it.

No Matter Who Starts Something, God Will Finish It
In the Bible, there is a scripture that says that “He who begins a good work in your will be faithful to complete it.” I remind myself of that when I feel my most inadequate. Fear of failure is a heavy weight on my soul at times. When I feel I am not doing what God wants me to do, I go to Him, and allow Him to remind me that He will give me all I need to do His work. This is just one part of what the Lord intended us to know when he said, “It is Finished,” on the Cross. There is also the message that all the sufferings that we are afflicted with in this life, they will end. It is just a season in time. The Lord will take care of His children and get them through the most terrible circumstances, and we will come out of it, purer and refined, stronger. The other lesson is probably more clear. That when Jesus suffered on the Cross, he crucified sin. He took away its power and the fear of death for believers. Because Jesus suffered that separation from God due to human sin, we don’t have to. He is the bridge to God, and because of Him, sin has lost its eternal power and grip on us. So remember, when you feel that your sin has alienated God from you, that Jesus’ acts on your behalf has made it impossible for sin to keep you away from God. Its power truly is finished. Keep those messages close to your heart. Those bad days, they will end. And while they are lasting, you are never alone. God is there with you always.

Surrender All Things Into God's Arms
I have a bad habit of fixating on things. It can make for sleepless nights and lots of stomachaches. This book reminded me that God can deal with the stuff I'm not equipped to handle, no matter how much I analyze and reanalyze things. Some things are beyond my control, but nothing is beyond His. Just like Jesus commended his spirit into God's hands, I can surrender my being to God and allow him to take care of me. And he will exactly that.

This was a short book. But it has a great lesson, if not a reminder, for Christians. On your bad day, go back to the Cross and look at what Jesus wants us to remember about His time on the Cross. It will get you through that bad day, and you’ll come out of it even stronger.

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