“The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, “This is love.” God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, “This is love.”- Joshua Harris
“To some, the image of a pale body glimmering on a dark night whispers of defeat. What good is a God who does not control his Son’s suffering? But another sound can be heard: the shout of a God crying out to human beings, “I LOVE YOU.” Love was compressed for all history in that lonely figure on the cross, who said that he could call down angels at any moment on a rescue mission, but chose not to – because of us. At Calvary, God accepted his own unbreakable terms of justice. Any discussion of how pain and suffering fit into God’s scheme ultimately leads back to the cross. ”- Philip Yancey
“I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.”- Old Rugged Cross hymnal
The sweetness of the cross. The title in itself is an oxymoron; yet God made it so. I often picture that day, picture the day that Jesus walked the road to the will of His Father, and I forget. I forget to picture it as it truly was- a bloody, horrific mess. There are many articles that discuss what was thought to have been done to Jesus and what that would have felt or looked like. This time of year, we see Jesus, a little baby wrapped up in a manger. All is calm, all is bright. Yet, let us not forget that this little baby wrapped up in a manger is the very Being that walked this painful road to Calvary. Both the scene in Bethlehem and the picture on that cross are equally a part of Jesus’ story. And, Jesus would not be Jesus without the death He experienced that day.
Friend, you would not be you without the specific cross God has purposed in your life. And, if we are truly desiring to cling to that “old rugged cross” as the song portrays, we must recognize the sour and the sweet that will exist until we see Him again face to face; the mystery of the Gospel and the basis of our faith as Christ-followers.
Our community has loved us so well this week. We are so undeserving, yet in the midst of admitting our weakness and weariness, too many have stepped up to help carry this burden that is our reality. It is truly this love, these hands, feet, and heart of Him, that are pressing us forward in faith. As we get closer to our trip to the NIH, I find myself clinching my fists, for in my heart I know that if the Lord chooses to not reveal answers at this appointment, we are at the end of the road for a diagnosis for the time being. Do I trust that the Lord is over this and that He is good? Absolutely. Am I happy about this if He chooses to withhold for His perfect and eternal purposes? Not yet. But, the beauty of the cross is that it has the capacity to reach infinitely further than our emotions, way beyond our current circumstances. He gives us strength for the day, and I know if this is how He chooses to lay this whole thing out, He will give me the peace to endure. So, I trust. Sometimes, the simplicity of that is all we need to know. Sometimes, our prayers and our groanings in the midst of our weakness can only be spoken as, “Lord, I am not sure where this is headed. I am not sure my flesh is going to like it. But, in the depths of who You created me to be I trust You.”
“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”- 1 Corinthians 15:49
Friends, my vision is pretty tunneled at the moment, and my words are fewer than usual, but I want to remind us that at all times, bearing the cross is going to mean bearing His image- His complete image. And, if this is true, which God’s word says it is, then bearing the cross means learning to be comfortable with the sweetness within the messiness. It means picking up the rose, thorns and all, and admiring the beauty of the flower even as the thorns are cutting and pricking. And, we can rest assured that when things “feel” too heavy, He is more real and more powerful than our fleeting emotions. If God used the death of His Son to bring mankind to Himself, and if Jesus is our example, should we anticipate any differently? Should we be shocked when, at times, clinging to that old rugged cross means clinging to Him in the midst of our own blood, sweat, and tears?
“And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”- Luke 9:23 (emphasis mine)
I love this verse and am challenged by this verse at all once. I believe it is twofold. First off, we have to actively choose, consistently, to obey God and what He has for us. Secondly, I think He is reminding us that each day does have enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34) and that we must focus not on yesterday, not on tomorrow, but on what He has for us today. Furthermore, we must simply fix our eyes on Him.
Beloved, each of us carries our own cross today. Each of us will experience the sweet and the sour of whatever God has planned. Above and beyond our circumstances, we can know this: He is good. He is good. He is good. I pray to never stop preaching this truth to you or to myself. Because He endures forever, because of what He bore on the cross, we can endure the now. Moment by moment, He is weaving together the beautiful story of His children, and while we cannot yet see the full pattern, we can know that His ways are perfect. Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
“And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who is seated on the throne ad worship Him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.”- Revelation 4:9-11