Our Crosses into Victories
2nd Sunday of Lent
by Reverend Adrian Richard Kelly
March 14, 1976
At first the words 0ur Lord speaks to us seem like very hard words: we must pick up our cross for His sake and follow after Him. In the narrow meaning of this, it refers to anything we must suffer because of the fact that we are Christians. However, elsewhere, including in the Epistle for this day, we hear of the value of suffering in general. And it is in this more expanded, general way I wish to speak today.
If we are normal human beings we have a natural aversion and objection to this. And it would go like this:
No one wants a cross; none of us wants to suffer; none of us wants to carry burdens; none of us wants to struggle.
And yet the strange truth of our lives is this: all of us in this life have a cross. At different times in our lives the crosses may vary. For some it may mean living with a drunken spouse. For others it may mean living with a broken marriage. For others it may mean living with some kind of handicap. For still others it may mean personal problems, or money problems, or vocational problems. But the truth is that none of us wants a cross, but all of us have a cross.
What our Lord is saying to us here is this: You and I don't have to go out looking for crosses, or manufacturing them. All we have to do is bear the crosses we already have. And offering our cross up to Him, it will make a difference. Christ will turn our crosses into victories.
Let me share a story with you about how this is so, that as we offer up our crosses to Christ, He changes them into victories.
It involves a woman who was a housemother at a small southeastern college. The woman was crippled and had all she could do to use one hand. Each morning one of the girls had to come in to help dress her.
One day, one of the girls put this question to her: "Isn't is hard for you to have to undergo this suffering?"
What the housemother replied is rather significant. "Years ago, it was," she said."But today it is a blessing. In giving this cross over to God, He has enriched my life immeasurably. Through this cross that I bear, I have come to know God in a deeper way than maybe I ever would. Through this cross that I bear I have come to have closer contact with people than maybe I ever would. Don't feel sorry for me" she said, "God has turned my cross into a victory."
You and I don't have to go through life looking for crosses, because we already have them. And when our Lord says pick up our cross and follow Him, what He means is this: It is in giving our crosses over to Him, that it will make a difference. He will change our crosses into victories.
There is an illusion in the world today that somehow life should be free from suffering. If we have a marriage problem, then psychology should be able to help us. If we have a mental problem, then somehow psychiatry should be able to help us. If we have a physical problem, then medicine should make some kind of breakthrough. If we have economic problems, then somehow the government should be able to help us. If we have a vocational problem, then somehow the schools should be able to help us. If we are dissatisfied, or unhappy, or depressed, then somehow drugs medicine, entertainment, counseling, something new should be able to help us.
But the witness of Christianity is that this is not so. There is suffering in this life and we cannot escape it. The main symbol of the Christian faith is the cross, a reminder of suffering, of brokenness, of pain. Our Lord did not drive away in a Cadillac. He was nailed on a tree by the world. He was made to suffer the deepest suffering ever possible, because of you and me, so that through His suffering we might have the peace and freedom that comes from once again being right with God. He could have turned away from that suffering and that cross. But He didn't. He knew that was the only way we could ever have forgiveness of sur sins before the Father.
And now you and I are also crucified upon our crosses. The heartbreak in a marriage, the bitterness of a job, the hatred of a neighbor, the loss of a loved one, the heartache of a child, our handicaps, our frustrations, life itself.
But what our Lord tells us is this: It is not that suffering will never take place, but that it is through Him our suffering will be elevated, ennobled, sanctified, given meaning, given direction, given purpose, given the grace of His life. Through Him our sufferings will be turned into triumphs, our crosses into victories.
The woman who was crippled had undergone suffering. In her early years she was bitter. But as she gave her cross to Christ, her life was elevated. Her suffering was given meaning. Her life was given purpose. Her heart was given joy. Christ took that cross seen in the eyes of the world as senseless, and turned it into a victory for that soul.
We always have crosses with us and as we bear our crosses all by ourselves we are beaten. Then it is senseless. It is stupid. It is discouraging. It is meaningless. It is disheartening.
But as we offer our crosses up to Him, that is what makes a difference. Then Christ elevates us. He gives us meaning. He shows us things we could not know before. He leads our lives in new directions. He turns the defeat of our Good Fridays into the victory of His Easter and Resurrection. The world would batty us with our crosses, but Christ has come to give us life through them.
And here the voice of our Lord calls to us: "Pick up your cross and follow Me. Offer Me your cross, and follow Me. And I will turn your cross into victory. You may not understand now. You may not know the way that I am leading you. You may want to feel bitter and disappointed, and unhappy. But trust Me, and follow Me. And your eyes will see, in this life and eternity."
This is the invitation of the Savior of our souls: that as we give our cross to Him, He will turn it into victory. That through our life with Him} in our prayers, in our worship, in our communion, in our devotion, in our following Him our wastelands will be turned into gardens; our defeats will be turned into victories. Amen.