I sat down with Andrew to work on homework last night and as he started to put his name on the top of the paper he said, “Mom can you just write the letter ‘d’ for me? I’m terrible at making ‘d’s’.” I said, “No way. The fact that you aren’t good at making them is the very reason you need to do it yourself. Only practice will make you good at them.” So he practiced it a few dozen times, with me showing him how to make it better, until he felt more confident in his ability.
Many times the Lord deals with us in this same way. We ask for our crosses and burdens to be alleviated because we know God loves us and could easily take the burden from our shoulders. We are told to pray unceasingly (1 Thes. 5:17), and in faith ask “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me.” Lk. 22:42. Yet so often we are met with seeming silence. Is it because God knows that our crosses are important for our growth and learning? By our crosses we learn to rely on God more fully. Ideally, when we walk with the Lord through a trial we gain confidence and trust and realize a new strength. By our sufferings we are shaped and formed and refined on our way to perfection, like gold that’s tested in fire.
“Their sufferings were minor compared with the blessings they will receive. God has tested them, like gold in a furnace, and found them worthy to be with him.” Wis 3:5
And yes perfection is the goal! We are created for it so we can rest easy in the assurance that God has a very good reason when He allows His children to bear their burdens. They will ultimately be for our good. We are being groomed and refined. We are being made worthy to share in the inheritance.
Jesus himself had to endure the cross before He was resurrected. As true Christ followers we cannot expect an easier road. Nor should we want one! True love of Christ requires our desire to share in His suffering. It is this desire that allows us as lovers of Jesus to offer our own sufferings and crosses to Him.
Growing up, I often heard the phrase “Offer it up” when I uttered complaint. Of course it meant nothing to me outside the bounds of my own relationship with Jesus and only as I grew closer to the Lord could I begin to understand the merit of that statement.
Loving Christ turns suffering from a Cross to a Joy.
Just as I would desire to suffer in place of my child if I could, so I desire to offer to Jesus my sufferings for the salvation of souls. I endure them gladly rather than lament and bemoan them if they can be used for His purposes and to the end of accomplishing His holy and divine will. Furthermore Jesus calls us to Love not only our friends but our enemies in this way. To Love perfectly is to lay down your life for another.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” 1 John 3:16
This is what Christ did for us. From His perfect love he died for all, not just for those of us who love Him back. He died for His enemies. He suffered for people who hate Him. WIth those who love Him, He established a covenant of Perfect Love, so that we could go forth and share that same Love, even with our enemies, because to love an enemy is to love Jesus. It is never by the power of our own flesh that this is accomplished but by God’s Perfect Love given and received.
This is our call as true Christ followers. Can we follow Him all the way to Calvary? After all, only when we drink the cup Jesus drank will we be able to sit by His side in glory. (Mt. 10:37-38)
Suffering is a part of life that we simply must accept. What choice is there when suffering is everywhere? But when we accept the perfect Love God has given us our Joy can come from bearing up under the weight of our sufferings. We can and should take Joy in living this basic Christian witness. Just as I wouldn’t have let Andrew struggle in frustration on his own, God would never ask us to endure something if He didn’t give us the equipment necessary to do it. We are never alone or without His almighty hand of protection upon us. He helps us carry our burdens, making sure they are not too much for us to bear. Ultimately we will be victorious and every struggle will be overcome. What Joy we have in His promises!
What if Andrew hadn’t liked my response and chose a different reaction? He could have had a little tantrum, thrown down his pencil, and said I just can’t write the letter ‘d’ and I don’t want to practice it. He could have resisted and cried and turned it into a miserable homework experience. Had he done that, his stubborn tantrum would have been the more difficult path to the same end – practicing until perfect.
Luckily for us God makes perfect. Our efforts will always be humble and imperfect, but our effort is like the mustard seed. God can grow it into the tallest tree. Our willingness to suffer for the glory of God, whatever life throws at us, is precious in His sight. He doesn’t expect us to do it perfectly, only to lean on Him and trust in His providence and remain Joyful as a christian. He is patiently by our side encouraging as we enter the fire and He understands what we will some day understand for ourselves; that the only way out is through. Jesus knew this in the garden as well and it was the cause of His agony. He knew He must go through His passion and desperately didn’t want to but it was the only way to secure the joy and perfection of the Kingdom for all mankind. He prayed the ultimate prayer, “Not my will but yours be done.” That is the prayer we should pray unceasingly.
When God does not take our crosses from our life we can know with certainty and with Joy that “His will be done”.
There can be no greater honor.