I once read a story about a man who constantly complained of the load he had to carry. He felt his cross was far too big and that it was unfair that he had to carry such a load. He constantly questioned, “Why me, God?”
That same man had a dream that an angel placed in a room with crosses of all different sizes. He was allowed to lay his cross down and was instructed to take the one he wanted to carry. Some were jeweled and ornate, but so heavy that he could not pick them up when he tried. Others were roughhewn and left splinters in his hands and shoulders as he tried to manage their weight. Some were full of nails and jagged. Finally in one corner, he saw a very small cross compared to the rest. He was no dummy. He chose that one. The angel told him that was the very cross he had left in the first place.
When he woke up he was a ashamed for all of the whining and complaining he had done. He had never really thought about the weight of the crosses that others had to carry. Because they did it silently, prayerfully, or even cheerfully, he had assumed that their burden was nothing compared to his own. But in the room full of crosses where his own was the smallest, he quickly put things in perspective.
I have not deserved all of the wonderful and amazing things that have happened so far in my life any more than I have deserved the really horrible things. There is a balance in all of our lives. Life happens. It rains on the just and the unjust. Heartache and joy come to the good and the bad.
I am reminded of the verse in the Bible (Romans 8:28) that promises that ALL things work together for good to those who love God and those whom God loves and is working in.
Just like a sculptor of stone has to chisel away bits and pieces of the rock to get at the lovely image he sees within the stone, life is constantly chipping away at our rough edges. Hopefully in the end, we have become a thing of beauty with every little bit of debris removed, every cut, every stroke, every strike of the hammer.
There is another story in the Bible about God taking us through the fire and burning away the dross (imperfections). I’ve heard the story of how iron and steel are tempered in the furnace, molded and remolded by the blacksmith’s hammer, layer upon layer, cooled down, then plunged back into the fire for more heat before being brought out to feel the weight of the hammer again. Someone asked the sword maker when he knew the sword was finished. How did he know when it had been through the fire and hammer often enough. His reply was, “When I can see my reflection clearly in the sword.”
The fires of life, the weight of the hammer, is working a craftsmanship in us that cannot be accomplished any other way, until finally it is Christ’s image and character that reflects in our metal.
I am not fond of the fire. I do not like disappointments. I do not want to feel the blow of life’s hammer on my heart. But if that is what it takes for me to be the best person I can be, to learn the lessons I need to learn, to become a pure instrument in the master’s hands, then I submit with joy, believing with all my heart that even the bad times are bringing forth the good times in my life.
We must take the good times with the bad and the bad times with the good. No one’s life is perfect. Standing on the outside and looking in at others, it may appear to us that they do not have struggles or disappointments. We may even convince ourselves that they’ve been pampered and spoiled and don’t know the first thing about heartache. That notion is one of the biggest lies around. If it were true, the rich and famous would never get addicted to drugs. The wealthiest would never commit suicide. The most beautiful would never be beaten by a spouse. The most powerful would never become alcoholics.
Life is full of challenges for everyone. How we deal with those challenges can surely make a difference.
Bo Lee delivered a sermon last week about the law of sewing and reaping. If you’ve never heard him preach, I can tell you, he is a crack up. He preaches the Bible, but he puts it in plain country talk. The verse is often quoted, “As a man seweth, so shall he reap.”
In Bo speak, “If you plant potatoes, you are not going to reap tomatoes. If you plant potatoes, you will in due season get potatoes.”
Does that mean that if bad things happen in life, the person deserves it? Sometimes it may be true, but that is not the point. If you keep doing good things with your life, planting good seeds, when the storms have passed over, the crop you’ve sewn faithfully and tended to will be ready for harvest. The good that you do, the way that you live, the way that you treat others, the way that you love, and the way that you serve God is not in vain. It may take a while to realize the good or to see your dreams come true, but in time, the good will come.
I’m not a quitter. If I was, I would have quit trying a long, long time ago.
People hurt us. People disappoint us. Circumstances affect us that we didn’t cause and over which we have absolutely no control. Difficulties come. Challenges arise. We can’t let ourselves get stuck in that moment. We can’t let those things cause us to lose sight of all the good we have now, and all the good that is yet to come.
I don’t want to carry your cross and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to carry mine. Each day of our lives, each trial and triumph, each lesson we learn makes us stronger, and equips us to carry the cross that is uniquely ours. I have the skills, the faith, and the knowledge it takes to overcome the hard things I’m facing at this moment. So do you.
Whatever you happen to be going through, remember that it will pass or you will develop the strength to deal with it. We have to take the bad with the good, but with all of my heart, I believe the good will win out in the end.