“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.
“And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live." John 5:24-25(NLT)
I have been thinking of things that I am thankful for this week, but I have asked the Lord to expand my mind in this area. Yes, I am thankful for a wonderful family, a home that is more than comfortable that is going to be bursting at the seams in just 48 hours, and for a blessed life. But I wanted to think about what I am thankful for spiritually that I don't always remember.
I have been thinking about the cross a lot. Thousands of years before Jesus was born of a virgin, the cross was the symbol of God's curse. Every Jewish person familiar with the law of Moses would have known that a body that was hung on a tree to die had offended God in a most wretched way. There is a little verse tucked away in Deuteronomy that can easily be passed over as the reason why the cross was such a humiliating way to die.
"If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung [on a tree] is under God's curse..."
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (HCSB)
Without realizing that Christ would rise again and conquer death, I can see how bewildered His disciples and his mother would have been at the foot of the cross. They would have had to wrestle with the question of the shame of the cross and Jesus' perfection. Without understanding that Christ's shameful death would be the way of salvation for them, that Friday at Golgotha must have looked very dark indeed. It would have completely rocked their worlds. But you and I know that Jesus had to suffer the shame in order to be glorified as the Savior of the world.
What cross are you carrying today? Is shame a constant companion that taunts you every moment your mind isn't mercifully preoccupied with other thoughts? Is His joy fleeting? Is the abundant life He promised that you see other people have somehow eluded you?
My sweet sister, do you know that the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead longs to resurrect you and me? The circumstances and decisions that have us convinced we are under God's curse are the VERY circumstances He can use to bring Himself glory in our lives. I was thinking of some of the crosses that we might be dragging ourselves along under.
* Compromised purity that resulted in a child living without everything we wanted to give him/her, including two parents.
* Infertility that has resulted in one humiliating procedure after another, all ending with our hearts completely broken as we stare at the empty room we long to make into a nursery.
* A life partner who we just knew we could change when we said "I do" who has done anything but become more receptive to the Jesus we so desperately want him to know.
* Another year ending with no one to call our own, though we want to be married so badly.
* A health issue either in us or a loved one that has completely turned our world upside down and full of anxiety.
* Doubting God's will and call over our lives, though we were certain we had heard Him.
* Knowing we are in the center of God's will and never being so lonely or depressed in our lives.
* Financial troubles that continue to grow worse as we wonder how we are going to handle disappointing those little eyes whose excitement grows daily.
* An empty seat at the table that continually reminds us of what once was and never will be again in this life.
Did Jesus dread the cross ordained for Him? So much so that He begged His Father to take it from Him. It is human, my beloved girlfriends, to want to run from the cross we have been given to carry. We have a choice. We can run and feel its crushing weight as we try to deal with the shame alone or we can ask for grace to carry it. Throughout Jesus' life here on earth, He always knew that He would die for you and me. He told His disciples that repeatedly. It was not a surprise to Him.
Why is this cross I have been given a surprise to me, as if I am entitled to a life with no cross? Is that what I really want? What, I repeat what, is going to make me fall on my knees before Him if I get everything I want? What is going to change this heart of mine that does not seek Him on its own or what is best for me? The glory is not in the cross we bear; it is in what the cross accomplishes in this stone-cold heart of mine. It allows me to put to death those things that bring my God dishonor--my selfishness, apathy, and pride. It gives me a heart of compassion that allows me to see that the seen is only temporary, but the unseen is eternal. It allows the shame I once felt to be the avenue I share Him with someone else wallowing in the pit. The cross that He has asked me to bear is my glory, not my shame!
How did Jesus find the courage in the garden to say, "Father, not my will, but Yours be done?" I know that the answer is found here:
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)
Where is our joy today, my sweet friend? Have we convinced ourselves that this earth holds joy that only belongs to heaven? Is our joy wrapped up in something or someone who can be here today and gone tomorrow? Jesus knew the joy set before Him was eternal joy--joy that remained untouched by a cross of shame here on earth. Oh girlfriends! The best is yet to come. And what if we don't get what we thought we really wanted here on earth? Are we willing to say, "Not my will, Father, but Yours be done because You know, better than I do, the plans for me, which You promise will give me hope and a future?" That, my girlfriends, is the secret of true, lasting joy. That is the hidden glory in the shame that He will let be revealed to us when we see it from His perspective.
Jesus, change my eyes about the cross You have asked me to take up daily if I am to wholeheartedly follow You. Save me from the disappointment and frustration of the sin of entitlement that I have so often. This world is not my home. You allow circumstances to happen repeatedly to help loosen my heart's grip on what can never bring me true joy. But, Jesus, I am a little child who cannot see all her Abba is doing. Help me to trust You, not rebel, when I cannot understand this cross or its purpose. Change me to be like You through this cross You have given me. Help me to praise You for the joy that is set before me until I see You face-to-face.