The cross is everything that I suffer as a result of my connection and faithfulness to Christ and his Word. At the heart of this suffering is the denial of self. The cross isn’t just suffering, the cross isn’t simply the aches and pains of life that all endure from time to time just by being human. It’s not just by itself sickness, financial reverses, disappointment from family and friends. In and of itself it is not even death or the fear of death. All people go through these things whether they are Christians or not. It’s real life. But all of these things may become crosses however. They become a cross, each in their turn, when they tempt me to doubt the love of God. They become a cross when they make it difficult for me to trust the promises of his Word that he will never leave me or forsake me.
WELS Professor Daniel Deutschlander has written and spoken extensively on this topic. A couple of excerpts:
“The cross of suffering on the outside and the consequent anguish on the inside is necessary as a preparation for the hearing of the gospel and for a clinging to the gospel; it is our cross which drives us again and again to his cross. That’s why our Fathers called it das liebe Kreuz, the dear cross. And that sums up so much of our life as Christians.” (Daniel Deutschlander, “Don’t Be Afraid! Cheer Up! It’s the Cross!” p. 14. Accessed at http://www.wlsessays.net/files/Deutschlander%20Cross.pdf)
Also from Deutschlander’s essay: “In his sermon on the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt and then their return to Israel (Matthew 2:19-23), Johann Gerhard notes:
Behold, such alterations God still gives to his own. He lets them experience much and great anxiety, but then he helps them again. And all such things he does for this reason, that we should seek rest for our souls in him, not in outwardly good circumstance. For in this life no good circumstance is permanent. Therefore we should also not depend on it without heart, nor seek rest for our heart in it. Rather the internal foundation of our soul should purely and only depend on God; then the rest of our heart will not be disturbed by our outward circumstances.
Gerhard has captured the essence of the Theology of the Cross. The Christian’s life is a life of one on a roller coaster. Nothing in it is ever durable or permanent. Nothing in it is absolutely reliable. At no time can the Christian finally say: At last! I’ve made it! Soul, take thine ease! You have triumphed over all your sins and temptations and won the victory over every temporal fear or need. No, such is not and this side of the grave never will be the Christian’s lot.” (Deutschlander, p. 1)
Don’t be afraid! Cheer up! It’s the dear Cross! As you take up your cross and follow Jesus, He holds you in the palm of His hand.
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand