In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Notice Jesus says we must take up our cross daily. Suffering and hardship He guaranteed. In fact, He said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Each day will provide its own burdens, and each day we must choose how to handle them. Jesus tells us if we desire to follow Him, we must surrender to His plan, difficulties and all. Our burdens bear a purpose, and we must bear them with full devotion to the Lord.
A particular cross I bear is the chronic illness I developed at the age of 26—Rheumatoid Arthiritis (RA). The disease has no cure and progressively worsens over time, causing permanent, irreversible damage to joints, connective tissue, and potentially to the body’s organs. My RA has been relatively tamed for several years, but because I am in the process of changing medication, it is flaring fiercely. My thumbs have swollen to twice their size, my knees won’t bend, I cannot grip things, my ankle won’t flex, even my throat aches. And there’s really not much I can do about it.
Except hand it over to God to do with what He will.
I received a parable by email. Its message reinforces the importance of bearing the cross God has given us. In the story, a man walks along a path carrying a large cross upon his shoulders. He complains to God that it is too heavy and asks Him to shorten it. God complies. The man carries it a little further and again complains. Once again God grants the man’s request. The man comes to a great chasm. Others lay their crosses down and cross over, but this man’s is too short.
The man in the story was too concerned with his own comfort. He did not devote his life to the Lord, but expected the Lord to conform to his own desires. In the end, the man fell short of the glory of God, literally.
You may be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief. Well, I have grieved my former self in relation to my disease. I spent many years in denial until RA began to show itself with disfigured joints and unending flares, and I have spent time in denial that maybe I could live without treatment. I was and am angry at the RA for what it does to me, and I am angry at the pharmaceutical companies for producing products that may soften symptoms, but have the potential to kill me in a dozen other ways. It depresses me to have days when I can barely move or function, and it frustrates me I can’t find a therapy to make me healthy. I have tried to bargain with God. “Rid me of this disease in this life, and look at the testimony I’ll have for you!” I offer Him, but He doesn’t accept. I’ve bargained with the treatment options, looking for a way to stifle this monster. And, finally, I’ve arrived at acceptance.
I have a disease that has no cure. It will not go away, and the treatment options aren’t great. I could ask God to remove my illness, and He could agree, but I would miss tremendous growth opportunities if He did. Instead of growing closer to Him, instead of deepening my spiritual relationship with Christ, instead of becoming a sharper tool in the Master’s workshop, I would be short-changing myself—or short-crossing myself—and I would be preventing others from following this path to salvation.
To complete the Kubler-Ross final stage of acceptance, I must surrender to God’s will. I must look beyond my physical discomfort. I must overcome my frustrations. I must get past me if I am to arrive at hope. I must remember that this affliction is not about me. Isaiah 43:7 says we were created for God’s glory. It is about humble servitude and faithful obedience to the Lord’s will.
Lord, please help me to know your will. Guide me. Please give me your wisdom. Speak through me. Work through me. Help me not to resist you, but to give in to you wholeheartedly and let you use me. Help me to “Serve [You] with a perfect heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9).
“Remove the Me”
by Jodi Whisenhunt
Lord, remove the Me.
Am in the way. Lord, take
Cease to exist.
Don’t make Me your instrument.
Am yours already, just
Remove the Me.