As we closed out this year that will certainly go down in history as one of the toughest years, I can't help but look back and think "Wow God, you really are in control!" On the surface it looks like the devil was unleashing everything he's got this year and pulled out all of his tricks to bring suffering, illness, isolation, and division. God always wants to bring his people together and so the devil is always, moving in the exact opposite direction. I've never seen a country, church and even families so divided as I have this year. All this left me wondering "Where are you God and Why have you abandoned me?" My whole life he has been leading me closer to himself through friendship, the outdoors, and the sacraments. Within the first few months those were all taken away one by one. On top of that, my mother who has always been my rock in the faith, got extremely sick and all of the sudden everything that God had used to bring me closer to him, were gone. Again I found myself crying out "My God, why have you abandoned me?!"
It's interesting to me that in the scriptures it is often a great suffering or desperate cry of the heart that precedes an encounter with the Lord. Stories of the hemorrhaging woman, the woman at the well, the blind man, the leper and even Christ in the agony in the Garden, all started with a desperate, raw cry of the heart that led to life changing encounters with Jesus. You even see it in movies! Like its a wonderful life. When George Bailey sends out a honest and powerful prayer after he is about to lose everything.
Reflecting on this back in May it occurred to me that maybe God was allowing this suffering in my life that I might also cry out to him! In that moment where I asked Jesus why he was abandoning me, I cried out perhaps one of the most raw and angry prayers of my life. Going on a tangent, I told the Lord how heavy the burden of my cross was and how I was all alone now without any of the support systems that had brought me to where I was, that I had nothing left and I couldn't take it anymore. Just like that an inexplicable peace came over me and I could finally see. The crosses in my life were given to me for a reason and I had a choice to make.
I could choose to ignore suffering and pretend that “it’s all ok” and the hurt or pain isn’t real so I should just shove it down and put on my happy face. (This was what I have been constantly tempted to do)
I could choose to wallow in the suffering, live in fear allowing myself to get more and more frustrated as I try to control the circumstances around me or get more and more frustrated thinking about all that I wish I had or could do.
But Jesus showed me there’s a third option that lies in the middle! I can choose to acknowledge the suffering, frustration, loss and/or boredom and CHOOSE it. Not just accept it but actively CHOOSE the crosses in my life. His yoke is easy and his burden is light only when we choose the cross! If we resist it's too heavy!
Scripture says that Jesus when given his cross embraced it! I imagine him bloody and broken taking this giant splintered death bed and kissing it with a smile on his face because he knew it would lead to glory.
I want to follow in Christ's footsteps here, which means I need to deny myself and embrace my crosses. As we head into 2021 I'm sure there are still many crosses that we would love to ignore or cry and complain about but I want to invite us all to get really honest with ourselves before God to start this year. I want to invite you all to take time in silence before him and hand Jesus the burdens of your heart exactly as they are. Cry out, scream, vent whatever you need to do to be honest with yourself and show Jesus what you really think and feel. Once you've done that, don't stay there. This isn't sad boy hour. his is the GOSPEL!!! The GOOD news. Once you've done that look up and allow Christ to show you where his heart is in all of this. He will reveal himself and He won't take away our crosses but he will show us the profound meaning that it has and how close it brings us to him.
The cross always leads to glory, so in 2021 lets learn to not just deal with or ignore our crosses but actually embrace them with the joy and the confident hope that Christ will lead us to glory!