“Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?'” -Luke 9:23-25
A troubled and burdened man prayed and prayed that God would lift his burden. Day after day he prayed that his life would be easier and he begged for God’s intervention.
One day, Jesus came to the man and asked, “My child, what troubles you?” The man replied that his life was full of turmoil and that it had become too much to bear. He again asked for help stating that he just couldn’t continue to go on.
Jesus, feeling the man’s anguish, decided help was in order. The man was so happy that his prayers were about to be answered that his burden already felt lighter.
Jesus took the man to a room and stopped in front of the door. When he opened the door, what the man saw was amazing. The room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. The man, bewildered, looked at Jesus and asked how this would help him. Jesus explained that each cross represented a burden that people carry; small burdens, big burdens, giant burdens — and every burden in-between.
At this point, Jesus offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden. The man, so excited that he was finally able to have some control over his life, looked around the room for just the right cross. He saw a tiny little cross way back in the corner. It was the smallest cross in the room. After a bit of thought, he pointed to the cross and said, “That one, Lord. I want that one.” Jesus asked, “Are you sure, my son?” The man quickly replied, “Oh, yes Lord. Most definitely, yes.”
Jesus turned to the man and replied, “My child, you have chosen your own cross. It is the burden you already carry.” -Unknown Author
We don’t like the crosses we have been given to carry. They’re hard. They’re uncomfortable. They wear us out physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally… “Why THIS, God? Why have you given me THIS to bear; to struggle with? Couldn’t it have been something else? Something easier?”
I think we have all found ourselves asking similar questions of God before. We may even think that the person next to us has it way easier than we do, without knowing anything about the weight they carry. This story about the man who wanted to trade his cross for another illustrates so well a reality that God has humbled me with over and over again: that no matter how big or how heavy my crosses may be, there is always someone who has a heavier cross to carry than I do, than you do.
Now, this is not to say that the crosses you and I bear are not heavy or difficult ones. They most likely are. But the reality is that we are the created, not the Creator. We cannot possibly fully understand God’s reasons and purposes for the situations and challenges of our lives. Such an effort would be like one of Monet’s paintings trying to understand why the master artist would arrange all the colors on the canvas in this certain way. We, the creation, usually don’t get to see the bigger picture–that’s the Artist’s job. Our part is to trust in His skill and to surrender to being used for His purposes, because they are so much better than ours.
This is difficult to live out, but our willingness to bear our crosses brings God’s help to do so. Whether our cross is our state in life, our family situation, financial hardships, attraction to a particular sin, or any number of other challenges, we must remember God’s faithful promises: that He never gives us more than we can handle; that He always brings good out of even the hardest of life’s curve balls; that He has made us good, with a purpose and a mission; that He loves us more than we can ever comprehend, and that He desires for us to be happy. What most of us need is an increase in gratitude for all of God’s goodness in our lives. With every difficult cross we are given to bear comes a multitude of blessings to be thankful for.
No matter what our crosses are in this life, let us daily renew our trust in our loving God’s plans, and strive to say with St. Paul near the end of our lives:
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” -2 Timothy 4:7-8