In these journeys with chronic illness or pain, we often are not able to see our places of trial in the light of jewels being formed and brought forth. But what if God has His perspective to show us?
One night as I lay reading in bed, as fresh pain was flowing, and I was consumed with thoughts of all my past treatment “failures,” I felt the Lord asking me to pause in His presence. Thoughts of the cross had flooded my mind for days, from the Scripture:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NLT
And as I asked Him to help me let go of my own way, of striving to find my own way out, more questions began to rise in my heart: What if these places of “failure” are not meant to be run from, but are places to be stopped and pulled close to hear His heartbeat for truth & His wisdom?
The cross of Jesus
Is my justice
I fall beneath all else
My guilt consumes
On my own there is no good
Only striving yet and more.
But CHRIST is my victory
I come under HIS cross--My cross
Like a river
I am whole.
His Presence has never left me, even in the most painful of places. His cross has covered every failure, every striving of my own. And His invitation to see His grace right there has remained open for me:
Psalm 61:3-5 The Message (MSG)
You’ve always given me breathing room,
a place to get away from it all,
A lifetime pass to your safe-house,
an open invitation as your guest.
You’ve always taken me seriously, God,
made me welcome among those who know and love you.
Matthew 28:20 NLT
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
And as I see His presence with me, as I see that I am under HIS cross, He leads me along right paths, paths of His choosing. It is no longer my own striving, my success or failure, that brings me freedom. No, it is only HIS cross that has won the true victory.
Psalm 23: 3 (NLT) he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
(ESV) He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
And if I pause to see another meaning of that word “paths”, my eyes can look up to see His perspective in these painful places:
paths = entrenchments
Where I have felt stuck or alone in my pain, He has been digging a trench around those old ways that I have not been able to let go of. He has seen every entrenchment, where I have dug in my heels and said: “no way, I can’t get out of this.”
And His cross has opened the only way for my freedom to be found.
An old hymn came to my mind then. And words of blessing poured from His heart to mine as I let Him sing new verses with the old:
"Must Jesus bear the cross alone
And all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone
And there's a cross for me."*
Must this life bear suff'ring's mark
While all my heart be cleansed?
Yes, every step along this way
Is fully clothed with GRACE.
Must every heart bear a cross
And see our flesh be cured?
Yes, Jesus' Cross is borne for me
My only crown and jewel.
*1st stanza from hymn by Thomas Shepherd, 1693
Can you join Anna and I today and pause together here? Are there entrenchments, where you too have found yourself digging in your heels and saying: “no way, I can’t get out of this.”? Can you lay them at the foot of the Cross with us today?
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for Your presence that has always been with us and will never leave us. We are filled with awe to see that You love us so much.
Thank You for Your invitation extended to us, to come under Your cross, to let go of our old ways. Oh but thank You even more that when we cannot see how deeply those old ways have entrenched us, You dig a path around us. You go behind us as our rear guard, redeeming our past. You extend Your hand to us here in the present. And You become our Way out, forging a new path of grace for us of Your making.
Thank You for bringing us to Yourself through every illness, loss and trauma, that by the power of Your Holy Spirit, we might let go of the old ways of our striving and run into the new way of Your Cross set before us.
Father, shine Your light upon our hearts today, opening the eyes of our hearts to see You and know You in new ways. Fill us with Your understanding and discernment that we might let go of the old and walk upon the new paths of Your choosing that give You alone the glory.
Thank You for the true crown and jewel of the Cross: the restoration of our fellowship with You and with each other, through You. Help us to lift up our eyes and see You, even here, transforming our trials into jewels – into recognizing and receiving the hidden treasure of Your Presence in the least of these. Hidden manna that destroys our entrenched fleshly interpretations of Your Word.
In Your precious name we pray,