Wednesday, 1 March 2017

5 Ways to Carry your Cross

By Megan James

I have thought and prayed a lot about the cross recently, and one thing has struck me; sometimes what hurts us the most is not really the cross itself, but the way in which we carry it.

The other day, my housemate was filling out a job application form, and I laughed at him far too hard when he read out ‘lifting’ as a special skill. However, he explained to me that at his job in a supermarket, he had to have special training in how to lift the stock safely because lifting any weight can be dangerous and damaging if it’s not done correctly. It only takes a slightly misplaced foot, a wrong bend, or a poor grip, and our bodies can take a serious hit.

So how do we make sure we lift and carry our crosses safely? There’s no training course like the one my housemate went on, so how do we know where to start and what to do? Well, here are just a few tips I have come across.

1) Get rid of the F-Word from your vocabulary

No, we’re not talking about that F-Word (although, you should probably get rid of that too…) I’m talking about ‘fine’. I’ve got a terrible habit of shrugging everything off as just ‘fine’. When going through a tough time and asked how I’m doing, I often just reply ‘oh, I’m fine’, or I’ll say something like ‘[this is going on], but it’s totally fine’.

So often we hide from the cross behind the lie of ‘fine’, but by doing this, we belittle the suffering of the cross. When we belittle the suffering of the crucifixion, we diminish the glory of the resurrection. We need to learn to be honest with ourselves and be real when we’re going through these tough times. The cross is by no means fine, and that’s okay! We’re allowed to show weakness, we’re allowed to cry and ask for help. Just ask Jesus.

When Jesus was crucified he wept, he cried out ‘God, why have you forsaken me?’. He admitted to doubt, to fear and to pain in the agony of the garden. There is no shame in being vulnerable, rather there is quite the opposite; there is freedom in showing struggle. It is when we finally admit to not being fine that we can start to be on our way to being to being good. .

‘We can ignore even pleasure. 
But pain insists upon being attended to.’

C.S. Lewis

2) Don’t be afraid to share the burden

Part of the beauty of the cross is that is doesn’t have to be bared alone. We are a part of something so much bigger than just ourselves, we are a part of the universal church, a part of Christ's body. In short: we are not alone.

Share your struggles with those close to you and let them help you. Even Jesus himself had help carrying his cross! We see him fall down three times, showing that even he struggled with the weight of the cross. We see Simon of Cyrene step up and take some of the weight, allowing Jesus to persevere.

So, ask your friends for their prayers, turn to the Saints for their intercession, turn to Mary and let her take you by the hand to her son, and turn to the sacraments for their healing and their grace. Most importantly, turn to the One who knows about the suffering of the cross more than anyone. Turn to Christ.

‘Carry each other’s burdens, that is how to keep the law of Christ.’

Galatians 6:2

3) Celebrate the small victories and thank God

At the Youth 2000 Retreat in Rotherham, Babs gave a talk on prayer and a quote that really stuck with me was this; ‘when we are people of gratitude, we are people of joy.’ This really made me think; even amongst suffering, we shouldn’t forget to thank God.

Do not live in the darkness of the shadow of the cross, but instead, every day try and find some light and some joy, and celebrate even the smallest of victories. We always have a reason to thank God. 

Thank Him for the people in your life who support you during these times. 

Thank Him for walking with you Himself through the darkness. 

Thank Him for this time of growth and reflection. 

Thank Him for the mercy He gives us freely. 

Thank Him for this opportunity to experience His cross and come closer to Him. 

Thank Him for everything He has already done for you in your life.

And as Babs said, it is when we recall all these reasons we have to thank God, we find the joy and the strength that we need to persevere.

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment 
and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

4) Look for the lesson in your cross

No cross, despite how they may feel, is ever senseless. God can bring glory from all things, and there is something we can learn (about Him or ourselves) in every hardship we face. Instead of fighting against the cross, or feeling full of anger, fear or self-pity, try and take it all to prayer. This is by no means easy, but no part of the cross is easy.

Instead of asking God to lift your cross from you, 

ask Him to provide you with the wisdom to find the lesson He is trying to teach you.

Ask Him for the strength to persist. 

Ask Him for the courage to take the steps He is asking you to take. 

Through the cross Christ teaches us to be more like Him. He teaches us things such as humility, sacrifice, selfless love, resilience, faithfulness, patience, and compassion. The cross is the breeding ground of virtue.

‘Not only that; let us exalt, too, in our hardships, 
understanding that hardship develops perseverance, 
and perseverance develops a tested character, 
something that gives us hope.'

Romans 5:3-4 

5) Remember the cross has already been conquered

When we are faced with the cross, it is so easy to focus on the pain of the crucifixion, but what we often forget is that there is so much hope and so much glory bound to the cross, because there is always the resurrection. We need not fear what is ahead because Jesus has already conquered the cross. All our crosses He has already bared for us, and this is so important to remember, and is so liberating!

When we remember all the miracles Jesus has already performed in our lives, the crosses we face cease to feel impossible. There is no cross too large for our Lord, and through Him, we can overcome all things. If we live everyday with the joy and the hope of the resurrection in mind, our crosses lose their weight and their power over us. Jesus has already conquered, and therefore so can we.

‘There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. 
There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. 
There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, 
and does not now bear with us.'

St. John Paul II

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