I’ve always had plans for myself but there were many ways in which my original plans didn’t match up with God’s plans. I’ve had my heart broken by people whom I loved. I’ve lost some friendships I thought would last forever, and gained amazing friendships that once seemed unlikely. I thought I would work in television in New York, and now I am a campus minister in Alabama. And looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. But at the time, I revolted against the idea of changing my plans. I wanted to believe that I alone had the secret to a happy life and that I knew best. I wanted everything to be simple and to be perfectly mapped out. But instead of the scenic view and leisurely walk, sometimes that map looks more like the road Christ traveled to Calvary.
Often when I am experiencing stress and heartache, I struggle to bring myself to ask the Lord how He wants to me to suffer, how He wants me to sacrifice, how He wants me to Love. But Christ Himself tells us, that His yoke is easy and His burden light. Why then do I fear?
I want to desire what God wants for me, but more often than not it requires me to be patient and to let go of the plans I have for myself. And very often that can hurt. As human beings, protecting ourselves is an instinct that is meant to help us survive; when faced with the choice of choosing pain over pleasure, it is natural for us to not desire pain. And yet, in Luke 9:23, Christ says: “If man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
Christ knew just as well as we, that unfortunately, suffering will come. We will be faced with our own cross throughout our lives and to be followers of Christ, we must follow Him in all things, even following Him in carrying His cross. The cross is always present, even when we aren’t facing major pain or suffering. Sometimes God asks us to deny ourselves in little ways in our day to day life. Sometimes all we have to do to carry our cross is to ask the Lord what His will is for our lives, and following it even when it means sacrificing the plan we made for ourselves. When we take on the sacrifices God has asked us to, we can know that this way of the cross He is asking us to embark on, leads not to death but resurrected and eternal life. This is the joy to which God is calling us.
Even with the foretelling of this joyful resurrection, it is still often difficult to choose the cross with patience, joy, and love. But we can either choose to carry it ourselves or offer it to Christ who has already showed us He is ready to carry it for us.
Reflect: What is something that caused you suffering in the past that you are now thankful happened? How has God brought new life to you through past sufferings?
Reflect: What cross or crosses is God calling you to carry right now? How can you carry them like Christ?
Act: Write down a list of times you had a cross to carry but God brought good out of it. Spend a few minutes meditating with the list and thank God for those times, including the suffering you experienced. Maybe put this list in a spot (in your purse, on your mirror, in your shoe, in your office, etc) where you will remember to thank God for these times and look toward your daily crosses with Hope.