“Calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said, ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering, embrace it. Follow me, and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?'” (Mark 8:34-37, The Message).
As God has slowed my roll and limited my ability to move, I pulled The Message Bible off the shelf … perhaps only because of His leading. It is not a translation I favor.
Walking to the cross with Jesus requires picking up our own cross. He makes that very clear in the NIV version: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
As we hunker down on this long and dusty journey, how do we embrace suffering? How do we lay our selfish desires down and walk forward as He directs?
As many of you know, our son was recently diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Jackson has moments where God’s glory shines as he shares a good thing that has come about from the disease … and its suffering. But mostly, Jackson wishes he did not have any disease. He wants to be like other teenage boys, free to gorge on pizza after taking the challenge of wrestling the biggest kid in the neighborhood.
To embrace means to accept or support ( a belief, a theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically (dictionary.com).
I am thankful to Jesus who promises to keep working in us, keep walking with us, and continue to teach us. Because I don’t know about you, wrapping my arms around suffering as I lose my old self is not usually on the top of my to do list.
Just today, I received a teaching from a sister with back problems. She guided me to lay down on the floor and put my legs up to take the pressure off my back. Much to my surprise, I worshiped. Spirit led me to embrace the physical suffering. In laying down the mental fight, I spread my arms wide in surrender as I lay on the floor.
Embracing suffering, or picking up our cross to follow Jesus, has four key elements:
- Surrender. Let Jesus lead. You are not in charge of this gift of abundant life. If we are left to our own hearts, we will go astray faster than you can say Monopoly (Jeremiah 17:9).
- Follow Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life. He will show us how to sacrifice without going overboard. He will give us grace as we grumble through losing what we though we wanted. And we can look at any leper or blind man or the bleeding woman in the New Testament who called out to Jesus in their suffering. He sure showed them how to be free. In any suffering, we have the choice to run to Jesus or run away from Him.
- Reject self-help. That could mean those secular writings that tell you how to fix yourself instead of pointing you to the Lord and Savior of your life. Self-help can also refer to doing this life in your own strength, collecting your own glory. Jesus makes it clear that we shall need Him to follow Him into forever. The more we let go of sinful thoughts, desires and actions on this journey, the more of His light that shines within and from us (Ephesians 5:8). We offend Jesus if we try do life without Him. We double-Dibble offend Him if we rob His glory for our actions.
- Make plans for eternity. You are never too young or too old to determine what happens to your soul. You are never too deep in suffering to determine what happens to your soul. You are never too lost or bitter or broken to determine what happens to your soul. God would love to know you have chosen Him by inviting His Son Jesus into your life. If there is any reward for suffering that I would actively, enthusiastically choose … it is that my temporary pain-filled life becomes eternity with Jesus in all His glory and splendor.
Let’s pause together and pray:
Dear Mighty Heavenly Father,
Oh what a wonderful Savior You are! Lifting us from pain and sorrow, setting our feet on the rock of Your Son Jesus, wrapping us in heaven’s embrace.
Lord, You know our life is hard. You didn’t promise easy. Our bodies break, just as Yours did on the cross. Our feelings get hurt and we get rejected, just like You did in your ministry on earth.
We need You, ever more every single day. Teach us how to follow You that we surrender our lives to Your leading. Help us see sin embedded in our suffering that we miss when we get so focused on ourselves.
Lord, Your love is like none other we will ever know. We accept today the teaching of Your Word and Holy Spirit as we pick up our crosses and follow You to Calvary.
In Jesus’ Powerful Name we pray,
First and foremost, if you have any questions about accepting Jesus or following Jesus, please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I never knew where God will send this blog. I am here to talk with you about faith in Jesus.
Secondly, I pray God is leading you to His cross this Lenten season. Feel free to start a conversation here in the comments.
Thirdly, I don’t pretend that faith is an easy four-step process. Rather take this post as information, spiritual food for your journey. And if you are still hungry, go to your Bible and/or another believer to talk it out. I am sensing His lead to go deeper into the topic of suffering itself. I will be in prayer about that next post.
Photos in this post are mine.