How to love the cross
There is no life within us if we don't love the cross
Oh, God’s most beloved cross. What wonders it holds! The cross is fantastic! How can we embrace its gifts and come to love to suffer like Christ and the saints?
“This filled me with…so great a love of suffering that what ever I had to bear seemed but light in comparison with the ardent desire I had to suffer, that thereby I might render myself conformable to my suffering Jesus.” –St. Margret Mary
“For the sake of the joy that lay before him he [Christ] endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).
We simply must learn how to do this. This is truly following Christ. Not only will loving our crosses make our lives full of joy and peace especially during our suffering, we must know, it is through the cross that God will wipe out our desire for sin (send much grace to give us a saving faith), so we can desire God alone so to be saved by Him. The cross is of unfathomable value.
To do this, we must start to remove the lies we have been believing, thinking the crosses: our suffering, sickness, problems, loss, challenges, abuse, neglect, inconveniences, etc. are bad. Sure some of what we have suffered was from the hands of malice, but so was Christ’s cross, which we know is very good.
The reason we think our suffering is bad is because we don’t understand why God allows what He does. But we must believe Our Lord, who loves us with a love greater than we can comprehend–who became His own creation to teach and suffer greatly for us, so to take the punishment due to us for our sinfulness and show us how we need to change to obtain a saving faith–intends to make our suffering into something very good, IF we allow Him.
God allows nothing to cause our doom but to help us grow closer to Him, obtain the life of perfect peace He wishes us to have and to strengthen us with the grace we need to obtain Eternal Life.
Therefore, we must grow to trust in God and what He allows as ultimately leading to our good and truly believe our crosses are blessings.
Sadly, from wanting to run from our crosses, we have created horrible habits of rejecting God’s cross, which makes us haters of the cross. Yes, when we reject the cross, we are actually hating the cross–through our worries and complaints when things don’t go the way we like.
Tragically, most have been so deceived, we don’t even know we are rejecting the cross. Half of our life is spent complaining about this and that. But, as a result, we are rejecting God and loosing God’s grace…grace God wanted to send us through the cross to help us have a life of great peace and to save our souls.
“The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved [growing into a saving faith] it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Of course we want this to end. This article will tell us what we need to do to run to God for the grace we need so we can come to love our crosses like the saints before us have had.
Some of us might know we need to love the cross in order to be a true follower of Christ, since “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves [of pleasures of the world] and take up their cross [don’t worry or complain about suffering] and follow me [truly live the Word]” (Matthew 16:24). But reality is, most of us don’t want to suffer. Most of us don’t understand how we could rejoice in our crosses, since they are so painful. Yet, we know the saint’s “rejoiced” in their suffering. So that should be our goal too.
“[We] rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3).
Some of us have accepted our crosses and tolerate them. Some are even grateful for some of the crosses God has allowed us to bear, since we have come to learn the beauty in the cross and have seen what miracles God has worked through them, but few can say we look for the cross and love to suffer for the salvation of souls.
This is the kind of faith we are looking for. This is the kind of faith we need. God’s grace is waiting to give it to us.
What Good Comes From Suffering
Even if we have to suffer, it is hard to love or even tolerate something painful especially if we don’t really understand the benefits that come from it. So let’s learn what good comes from our suffering.
The Bible lists many wonderful benefits from the cross:
For example: if we go to the doctor and he tells us we have cancer, we know we will need to suffer in order to hopefully remove it, and we will willingly endure the suffering as long as we feel there is hope.
It is the same with our sins. Our sins–our cancer–is eating away at our souls, killing us and the treatment we need to remove our deadly sins is painful but most needed…therefore, we need to not fear suffering (don’t fear the cross), but believe we need all the suffering God allows and seek to grow in faith from it.
This is where our faith is supposed to come into place. If we trust in God, that doesn’t mean we just trust in Jesus to save us by us doing nothing…no, that means we trust in God’s commands and example (His Word) and all He allows as necessary to help us grow in faith for the salvation of our souls.
How can we despair or become despondent when anything bad occurs, if we really trust that God, allowed it and wishes to use it for our good? We can’t. So when we are moved outside of peace–worry, complain, become angry, etc.–when anything from a great tragedy to little inconveniences occur, we know for sure, our lack of peace is from our lack of faith.. It is only our lack of faith/trust in Christ to use the cross to help and save us that is causing us to fall outside of peace.
Yes, God intends to purify us by fire (suffering) of our deadly sins that are causing us to reject the life of peace He has waiting for us…to remove the impurities which are rejecting His love.
To learn the full benefit of the cross we need to learn about the different kinds of crosses and there benefits.
There are five kinds of crosses:
- crosses given to us from God
- crosses given to us from others
- crosses given to us by nature
- crosses given to us by ourselves (consequences of our sins or mistakes)
- crosses we choose to bear
But regardless of how we acquired the cross, like I said, everything that occurs in our lives was allowed by God, who loves us deeply and intends to use all moments of our lives to draw us closer to Him, if we allow Him.
Let’s look at cross #1: crosses given to us from God. We don’t like to think of God directly giving us suffering but sometimes He most certainly does. Sometimes we need punishment to wake us up, suffering to test our faith, pain to give us a cross we can offer up for souls, etc.
The problem is, most of us don’t know if the crosses we are bearing are from something else or God, since God uses all of the other types of crosses to give us the suffering we need. Sometimes, we will know loud and clear that God has sent such suffering to us. We will feel clearly it is to get us to stop sinning, test our faith, or for our or another’s soul. But sometimes we aren’t so sure. But we do know God allows everything and intends to make it into something good.
If we don’t know why we are suffering, we simply need to pray and ask God to teach us what He wills to teach us through the cross, ask for strength to carry it well–as long as He wills–as we trust in Him. We might not know immediately what is God’s intention is for allowing the cross, but at the very least we can carry it joyfully offering it up in atonement for our sins and the sins of the world. At the very least so much grace can be sent to help others obtain eternal Life…through our willingness to suffer according to God’s will.
If we feel the cross is bad–something that needs to leave–we can pray for God to remove it, but we must firmly trust that if God still allows it to stay, what we thought was bad and must be removed God has different plans and continuing in the cross is the greatest good. Sometimes we have a cross that is too great for us to carry, and we will need others or God’s help to carry it, so we should seek others and God for the strength to bear our cross well.
Now, Lets look at cross #2: crosses given to us from others. Someone cuts us off in traffic, our boss demeans us, someone causes an accident, our child treats us disrespectfully, someone is lazy causing us to work harder…oh the endless crosses that we have to bear from the hand of another are great. But each one is a blessing. They are meant to teach us and help us grow in godly virtues of patience and mercy and of course give us something to offer up in atonement for our sins and those of the world. To learn more please read, “What is Penance.”
When God allows a direct hand of malice against us, like disrespect, lies, abuse, hatred, persecution, what wonderful oppertunities we have to turn to God for grace to learn how to live a life of peace and act like Christ (live the faith) as we love our offenders in return. And when we fall short of love, to turn to God with a repentant heart, confessing our sin and making a resolution on how we intend to act the next time we are treated poorly. Then we will be learning how God intends and growing in virtue. Praise Jesus!
Let’s look at the last cross #4. How many people discipline themselves through diet and exercise, which are hard to do, but they will tolerate the food restraints and the pain and exhaustion that comes from exercising for the greater reward–a fit body?
The Blessings of Our Suffering:
How We Fail to Love
Here is a perfect example of how we fall short of loving others or guiding them correctly .
A sick person sadly states, “Gangrene has developed in my left foot and it needs to be amputated.”
The consoling person proclaims, “Oh, that is terrible…I’m so sorry to hear that.”
Well, it sounds like the consoling person is being kind…just like any of us would do, but are they really helping the sink person, like Christ would help?
Of course, sometimes saying those things is necessary, since the person we are helping has such little faith. They don’t understand the beauty in the cross…and sure it is terrible to lose one’s foot…just like it is terrible for someone to lose a child or to lose anything good. And if we don’t know suffering such losses are wonderful crosses, we simply can’t respond in anyother way. So, to help someone with where they are in their spiritual life, sometimes we must give them signs we have pity and care for them using terms they can understand.
But after that initial show of love (in a way they can understand), we need to step in and guide them to the TRUE WAY with love like Christ loves.
With the above example, we can see a person who is not happy nor rejoicing with their cross since they “sadly” declared their foot needed to be amputated. Now some people can accept reality pretty well and others not so well. But just “accepting” reality isn’t what a true follower of Christ does, who truly loves the cross. We really live the faith, we don’t just “accept” what is occuring that is bad, we “rejoice” in our sufferings.
“[We] rejoice in our sufferings” (Romans 5:3).
Now, the Christian’s goal is to bring the person who simply “accepts” reality or the forlorn person into having a true joy with their cross. Yes, we must take that cross and enlighten the person suffering to the wonders and fantastic joy that awaits them in caring their cross with Christ for the salvation of souls.
But before I get started, we need to know we should of course have pity on others who are suffering and bearing crosses in which they need help, but we should never promote others to have self-pity when they are suffering with a blessed cross. There is a difference.
We need to help others with there crosses where/when we can, if needed, and encourage others to rejoice in their cross while accepting God’s will and grace to:
- Learn God’s Lesson–as God always desires to teach us His blessed ways, so we can change and grow in holiness,
- Grow in Humility–as God always wants us to grow more humble (gain greater knowledge of our sinfulness and need of the cross) during our suffering,
- Gain Strength–as God always wants us fill us with strength so we can reject temptation and amend our ways to become perfect from the cross,
- Grow in Knowledge–as God always desire to fill us with greater knowledge of The Way so we may more clearly know what to do and how to live a life of peace on earth and in Heaven,
- Develop Wisdom–as God always seeks to give us greater fear of the Lord so we will truly desire to stop sinning and more clearly know right from wrong so to live the faith.
- Save Souls–as God always desires to use us to send grace to help us and others to amend our ways and atone for our sins, so we can bring us and others to a saving faith and then into perfect sanctity through the cross, like Christ did for us.
So, how do we do that? How do we teach others to love their crosses?
The problem is we fail to do this because:
- we don’t know we need to
- we have bad habits
Our natural reaction to someone complaining or crying over their cross is to say, “I’m sorry.” We need to break that habit. Are we really sorry they have to carry a cross? Did God really make a mistake in allowing that cross to happen? That cross, which God allowed, is what they need to bear to obtain a saving faith and for the salvation of souls. Are we really sorry for God’s will in their life? No…or we shouldn’t be.
People complain to us to find comfort in our pity for them. We become their god’s, who they seek for comfort…not the One who provides true comfort. Our comfort should come from the Lord, and we need to comfort others by guiding them to Jesus’ Sacred Side of Love not to our consoling words of pity.
Sure sometimes there is a place for the word “sorry” but most of the time it must be followed with a clairifyer as to what in fact we are sorry about, so to not mislead someone into the dark…and we are never sorry for the cross.
For example: A woman tells us, “My son just committed suicide.”
Now, we are very sorry for her loss, as losing a son pulls at a parent’s heart (but it shouldn’t cause someone to loose peace, if we are in fact fully accepting God’s will). We are also sorry that her son fell so greatly into the temptation of the evil one, as God never wills us to sin.
It is terribly tragic when any of us sin against our beloved Lord and even more tragic when that sin results in the loss of life. But we are not sorry that she now has this cross that God is allowing her to bear, which is for the good of her soul and can be used for the good of her son’s soul too. To learn more please read the article “How to Console Someone Greaving.”
But please remember we are never sorry for God’s will. It saves!
We fully believe God will take any cross, even one so painful, even if it is given to us by our sin or the sin of another and make it into good, IF we allow Him. If we trust in God, listen to Him to teach us, change and accept His grace, any cross can help save lives!
Lifting Our Values has a prayer card “How to Rejoice in Our Suffering” that we can share with a person carrying a cross that can help us enlighten them to the wonders in the cross so they won’t see the cross as a burden but a delight.
Examples of What to Say
What can we do when God places someone right in front of us who is complaining about their cross. Here are some real examples of complaints or people seeking help and the better response:
01. A man says, “I lost my job two weeks ago and now I can’t pay my bills.”
Most want to jump in and say, “I’m so sorry” but even if the man seems to just be seeking help and not pity please refrain from the word “sorry.” It mostly leads self-pity, not trust.
What would be better is to say, “Wow, God has surely allowed you to bear a big cross. How can I help you carry it (since he seems to be seeking help–and we are called to help others carry their crosses if needed)?” Then we can go on and say, “I can help with some expenses but do you need numbers to different resources that can assist you more greatly with your bills?”
With speaking like this, we just showed care and informed the man that God has allowed him to bear a cross…now his problem can be looked at in a different light. It isn’t just some great stress, but a cross…and most know we are to carry our crosses with Christ. He might not know why or what really becomes from carrying a cross, but at least now he knows it is a real cross.
Of course as one’s conversation develops, we can say what the Spirit leads us to speak to help enlighten him. Then we can tell him we will pray for him (make sure we really do it), and then offer him the prayer card so he can pray and hopefully gain greater trust in God’s will through the blessed cross.
02. A mother grimly tells us, “My child is suffering an unknown illness and dying.”
We are not simple people. When we say, do or think anything most of the time we have several different reasons why we do what we do, most of the time we just don’t realize them. To have a pure intention for any thought, word or deed takes MUCH grace. So, when someone tells us something tragic, there are most likely several reasons for the statement…one of which is probably seeking self-pity for comfort.
Now to guide someone to accept God’s unfathomable peace that He delivers in ANY circumstance, we want to steer someone away from that ever so common deadly desire of self-pity. However, since we still need to show much compassion with someone suffering, especially emotional and physical pain, especially if they are a very frail person (lacking much grace), we need to be very gentle but still just a truthful in the beauty of the cross.
So it would be proper to say, “Oh, how hard it must be to carry such a large cross!” as we go on to say, “I know God has a perfect plan for you and your child, and I will pray for you both that you can follow it and accept it. Also, I will pray that, if it is God’s will, that He heal your son completely.”
God’s will is different with each circumstance. Sometimes, He wants us to carry our cross (like being sick) only for a short while and/or perhaps He is just waiting for us to ask Him to heal us and other times maybe He wants us to stay sick for a while, perhaps He is just waiting for us to desire to stop sinning so to cure us (as crosses can be a consequence of sin–even the illness of a child, as seen in the Bible) and other times perhaps He wishes our sickness to help purify our souls for our death. Oh, God’s will is always what is best for us, but we just don’t know what it is much of the time.
God’s intentions for our good, is also so dynamic…He can seek the benefit of one’s soul through the sickness of another, as he heals the sick person at the same time…as much of the time when someone we love is suffering, God will use that cross to help the one who loves them. Oh, there is no end to the good that comes from the cross…if we want to accept it.
“[After they suffered they went] rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer” (Acts 5:41).
“At that time I did not know the joy of sacrifice; I was weak—so weak that I look on it as a great grace that I was able to bear such a trial, one seemingly so much beyond my strength—and yet live” –St. Theresa of Lixieaux