Thursday, October 04, 2007

Death and the Cross

Matthew 16:24-26 Jesus said... "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" 1

A few days ago I was faced with a situation where I had a hard time choosing the right path. I was flip flopping from one opinion to the opposite and careening like a pin ball - every thought sent me in a new direction.

Too often people talk about their burdens as "the cross I have to bear." That never seemed to me to be the true meaning of "taking up our cross." The cross is about dying. I need to die to myself. Or my old self needs to die so that Christ can live in me.

Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." 1

Oct. 4 would have been my parent's 65th wedding anniversary. On their joint tombstone it reads "Christ Our Life". I'm still grappling with that concept and how that becomes true in my life.

Philippians 3:10: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death." 1

Elisabeth Elliot speaks of this - "becoming like him in his death" - those words embody, she says, what Jesus meant when He said His followers must take up the cross. Other translations: "growing conformity with his death," "reproducing the pattern of his death," "even to die as He died." How did He die? In utter self-abandonment to the Father's will.

The trouble here, I realized, is that I don't want to die. I try to die and don't get far into the process before I am already grieving the loss. I can't help but think it is like a child refusing to leave the playground, not knowing that her father is taking her to Disneyland. The life of Christ is far greater than that. It seems silly to even make the comparison.

John 10:10 Jesus said..."I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." 2

My faith crisis comes in the doubting: "But I've not seen that abundant life. When does it come? Can it really satisfy?"

And I grieve for:

The death of my desire
The death of my control
The death of my independence

And I fear like the rich young ruler who loved what he possessed more than he loved following Jesus - and he turned away, grieved... lost forever.

Yet there is more to the story... perhaps grief is premature and misplaced...

As yet unborn

In the uterus of mother earth
we live our walled-in lives
barely dreaming of the world
beyond the womb.
of eternity to be relished
beside our speck of time.

If given the choice
we would stay in the cramped world of the unborn –
the world we think beautiful
and secure –
afraid of the contractions of death,
never realizing that they precede
light and wealth and sound
incomprehensible to a fetus,
never realizing that we fear and struggle
because we are but embryos.

C. Befus

Can I believe He is El Shaddai? The God who is enough? Even when I don't receive what my heart howls for? Can I truly trust that my death will usher in Christ's life? That He will give me the desires of my heart?

I want to.

Lord, help my unbelief.

1 New International Version
2 King James Version


  1. Hello Joyce,

    I just found your blog through Sue's and am so glad that I did. You express your thoughts so well. Also, I'm refreshed to read of your struggle with this being crucified thing. I once heard a young missionary say, "The only problem with a living sacrifice is that it keeps crawling off the altar."

    We know it. Thankfully He is the Savior -- we cannot do this!


  2. Thanks for your comments. It's always encouraging to know we're not alone in our struggle.