Joy and Sorrow in the Cross

Sorrow and Joy in the Cross

By Fred Pruitt

(The core of this [updated 5/28/20] was written from a Best Western Hotel in Sweetwater, TX, on one of our road trips in 2009. We were traveling from Arlington TX after having been with the Winters for a few days, headed toward a little town in west Texas called, “La Mesa,” for a couple nights of meetings with some new friends. There were four of us: John Bunting, Boyd Williams, John Fautley [from England], and I. We passed through Sweetwater [“Rattlesnake capital of the world”], then several miles on the other side of Sweetwater, Boyd’s Cadillac Coupe Deville decided to overheat and shut down. It was early May – and 106 F! The only thing working on the car was the power windows.)

Jesus is called the “Man of sorrows” by Isaiah for many reasons.

One of them is that the life of the Cross precludes a life where we are free from the responsibility to save others. The responsibility to save others (in whatever form) necessarily involves “sacrifice” on our part, of one kind or another. It can be a thousand different things. But there is often sadness, sorrow, involved. To live the life of the Cross, to give to some, it seems others are neglected or not given to. Sometimes those we are closest to get the least of us.

Another reason Jesus is called the man of sorrows is because once the power of Love overtakes us, the sorrows of the world are magnified to an infinite degree. There is just SO MUCH of it. Still, at the same time, the grace and mercy of God are so much greater!

Disasters, natural calamities, wars, as well as injustice, hunger, cruelty, unkindness, and intentional violence are so pervasive in the world, wherever we are, that is almost overwhelming and it seems sometimes to be beyond hope. People, through no fault of their own, are born into despair. Born into hunger, violence, repression, poverty — and I do not mean just the physical when I speak of hunger, violence, poverty, etc.

There is also the far more serious spiritual hunger, violence, repression, and poverty of the soul or spirit. As we are able, we help to alleviate physical privation and other serious problems of this life, but our real task in Christ is to bring the Living message that the Kingdom of God is at hand now and anyone who desires may walk in it today. Only the peace of God in Jesus Christ can pour soothing living water into the rage that has overtaken the world in our time. It is a rage that is so prevalent it has diverted many of the faithful from the one thing needful, i.e., to seek first the kingdom of God, and instead influenced many to join in with the world to fight and rage and lose their birthright in grasping after a kingdom of this world, even shaming themselves by attempting to supplant a false self-for-self gospel of worldly gain both in power and riches, idolizing money and the acquisition of the world’s greatest riches which are here today and gone tomorrow (a house built on sand), for the true Gospel of the Kingdom which needs no further description. The Gospel is people laying down their lives, up to and including their physical lives, that others might find the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Anything else is anathema.

There is also sorrow and sadness because there seems to be no answer. God seems silent. For those suffering physical privation, it seems a callous answer to tell them to see all as well, good, and whole, when they are screaming in agony from pain and flailing about in anger over why this could happen to them.

God seems far away or non-existent in the face of the unbelievable enormity of human suffering on this planet. Doesn’t He care?

People might say, well-meaning good Christians, that man brought all this on himself by disobeying God, and the suffering in this life is the just punishment for our sins. Whole theologies have been based on this one idea. But is that a right view of God’s precious, though fallen and lost, humanity? Is that how the Father looks upon His prodigals? “Well, they made their beds, let them sleep in them!” I’ve heard lots of folks say that, even myself. Has God said it, too?

If that had been the Father’s attitude there never would have been a Lamb as if slain in the midst of the Throne, nor would Jesus Christ have ever appeared on earth. Jesus came to reverse humanity’s headlong fall into perdition and insanity, not to punish and destroy us for it.

Paul said that the creation was made subject to vanity, not by its own volition, but by the will of God.

To lay a foundation for hope.

Brothers and sisters, we must bear that in mind.

Many years ago, before we were married, Janis and I went horseback riding. I was used to bicycles, but not horses so much. So when I got close to a ditch with the horse, I got a little scared and attempted to coax the horse away from the ditch. What I did not realize, however, is that the horse, being a somewhat intelligent living creature and not an inanimate device like a bicycle, wanted to avoid the ditch as much as I wanted him to. I’ve gotten a wealth of understanding from that horse-ride.

We as parents agonize over our children, especially when they have a hard time. As much when they’re “adults” as when they were small — perhaps more so. We want so much for them to make it, to make lives for themselves, to be happy, fulfilled, etc. We pray for them; we try to teach them the right way as much as we know how; we give advice, sought and unsought, but in the end, if we’re smart, we realize three things: one, it’s up to them and God entirely; and two, just like the horse, they don’t want to fall in the ditch any more than we want them to do so; and three, God is “individual” with them even as He is with us. That’s where all my marbles are. On God!

When we ask the questions about how to include the sufferings which have come with this war* and economic crisis, into the “universal,” the answer may not be to put it into some universal theory of “all things work together for good,” which is nice to hear in times that we need it, but sometimes it does not help. The answer may be to put it right smack-dab into the individual. *(Written in 2009, but certainly timely for this day [2020] also.)

If a man has his legs blown off, too ghastly to visualize, will God come to him in his suffering? Will grace be available that is greater than the suffering of losing his legs? If little children are orphaned and driven to a squalid camp of refugees, is God there, and does He meet them one by one? In conditions which are too horrible for our minds to comprehend, can the love of God somehow be seen in the midst?

Jesus said that the Father knows when sparrows fall, and how many hairs we have on our heads. In other words, He knows us each individually, every single one of us on the face of the earth, personally. Just considering that one thing, could take up every moment of eternity.

Therefore we MUST also believe, that if we’ve found in some measure His love for ourselves, (“God loves ME?”), then we can also believe in His individual love and care for every other human being on the planet, regardless or country, race, religion, politics, culture, or social standing.

This is where my “horse analogy” comes in. I thought I had to “control” the horse, to make sure he did not stumble into the ditch. But the horse had a mind of his own, and had no intention of stumbling into the ditch, even if I had tried to make him do so. The suffering of the world cannot be “controlled” by you or me; it will come, and it will come to all in some measure. And each individual can respond to the grace that comes with it.

The “sufferings,” shared in common by all humanity — when you suffer, I suffer and visa versa — ARE the sufferings of Christ. The sorrows of mankind are the sorrows of the Man of sorrows. But as we are all common in our shared sufferings, so also is the Man of Sorrows the Light that lights every man that comes into the world. Nothing is unnoticed, and Grace manifests in every individual who seeks it. And the “sufferings” cause us to seek it.

And whether in darkness or light, sorrow or joy, the One God Who IS Love is manifest in all.

What I am saying, is two things: one, I trust God in the individual, as much as in the universal. God seeks all, and the sufferings and sorrows are often the means by which He makes Himself manifest. I see Christ manifest in His sufferings for the world in starving children, repressed humanity, in failing banks and plant closings, and in wounded and dying men in battle. Second, it is ALL the Cross, Calvary through the blood of Christ, blood which dripped into the molecules of the earth below the Cross on Calvary Hill. That blood has since gone over the face of the earth into the very air we breathe and food we eat; the blood of Christ is physically still with us! It is His blood of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of Jesus’ final intercession: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Like in Dali’s painting, the Cross stands over the WHOLE WORLD, bringing Life out of death wherever it is sought, so that it is manifest and revealed.

Though death presses us from every side, we are not about death. But we are about resurrection unto new life, and this we declare. Like Paul, we know only one thing: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Let us be about the business of knowing this one thing only, to the exclusion of all else.

Addition:

Car Trouble, May 2009

Well, Jesus said the rain falls on the just and unjust. So it does! In the past when things like breakdowns have occurred, I have often thought myself responsible in some way– something I did or did not do caused it. But yesterday, in 106-degree heat, when the car we were traveling in overheated out in the middle of a cotton field a few miles from any sort of civilization, we could all only thank the Lord for His always manifest grace and goodness toward us. We thanked Him when the AAA wrecker came and brought an extra vehicle to transport the four of us. We thanked Him when the bill came back HUGE, but we knew the money had already been provided for the repair. We thanked Him when we were next door to a Days Inn where we could lay our heads for the night. We thanked Him when a lady agreed to drive us to a restaurant down the road so we wouldn’t have to walk there in the heat. Everything is a cause for thanks. Where is the blame? No blame! Like Paul, who said he had learned in every state to be content and to give thanks for all, how wonderful to thank and praise instead of listening to the accusing voice of condemnation and self-recrimination. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you!” It is almost more than we can take, to know that even though, “10,000 may fall by thy side,” “it shall not come nigh thee!” is truth that we can live by. That even though “calamity” may come, the angels have gone before and prepared the way, and we see only His hand. Was it the enemy? No matter if it was, for He who lives in us is greater than he who lives in the world. Therefore anything that comes our way we can endure and in it prevail, simply because in all things it is no longer we who live, but He who lives in us, Who is continually, every moment of every day, “more than conqueror” IN US!

Therefore, one more time we say, “Why do you fear? There IS NO FEAR IN LOVE!”

 

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