Our personal crosses are curious things. Every good Christian knows that to follow Christ we must first take up our cross. And every good Christian, upon deciding to truly follow Christ, agrees that they will do so. “Thy will be done,” we pray, while in the background of our minds and hearts we’re hoping it won’t be too painful. We trust that God will not give us anything bigger than we can handle and, amazingly, many of us find that when we embrace the cross Our Lord gives us the yoke ends up being easy, the burden is truly light. You are still carrying a cross – big, heavy, hard – and if we all stood back and looked at it we would agree that it is too much for you to bear. But when you get under it and hoist it up you find that you can do it. You discover that it fits you well. It is very, very hard but at the same time it isn’t.
This mysterious sweetness comes not because we know that the burden was given for a reason but because armed with that knowledge, we join our suffering with Christ’s on the cross. Our pain then means something. Or, as John Paul the Great wrote in On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, “Every man has his own share in the Redemption… In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.”
We can trust in God’s plan and His timing but that doesn’t mean that, this side of Heaven, any of it will ever make any sense. Take for example my friends Jude and Alisha. Three and a half years ago they put their Midwestern house on the market and moved back to the South they were raised in. The Midwestern house was in a good neighborhood, it was cute, and it was in a town that was not badly hit by the recession. But for three and a half years the house sat on the market. Financially it was a huge hit – they were paying for the vacant house and rent for their new place. Over the years there were a slew of repairs they had to pay for: a furnace, a mice infestation, a dishwasher. As Alisha said, “we were trying to be ethical to pay the people we said we’d pay.” In the end it depleted their savings and they were scraping by, living paycheck to paycheck with two little girls to feed.
They prayed. Novenas, St. Joseph statues, prayer chains – they tried it all. They wondered if they were earning time out of purgatory. At times they were angry with God; they were prepared to give even more, to lower the price and bring money to the closing, but He still wasn’t bringing a buyer to them.
Three and a half years. They wondered WHY but settled to know that they needed to be faithful to God, to continue to carry their cross, and to be grateful that it was just a house not an ill child or a crumbling marriage.
Three and a half years. It was hard.
And then one day last month they heard from their bank that there was an interested buyer and if they could close on the house by August 7th the bank wouldn’t foreclose. On August 6th Jude and Alisha finally sold their house. And two weeks later they got this email from the new owner:
Congrats on selling your house…and congrats to me on my very first home! Myself, my family and numerous friends have all been praying along side of you that this house would sell and I would be the buyer. From what I’ve read, you have [had] this burden on you for 3.5 years and wondered what God was teaching you over this time. I can’t exactly say what He had in mind for you but for me, He had my timing in mind. I am a 28 year old single, divorced mom of two wonderful kids and a survivor of [a] 5 year domestically violent marriage. My credit was destroyed by my ex and I walked away 2.5 years ago with $100 to my name. I moved back home to start over. Never did I picture myself in a position to buy a house 2.5 years later. As selfish as it may sound, I am thankful for your struggle. Because of your struggle my kids and I can start a new chapter in our lives, which we are so ever grateful for. I impatiently waited 8 months to get this house. That is nothing in comparison to your 3.5 year wait. What I do know is that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” – Romans 8:28
Alisha told me, “I never questioned that God had perfect timing… This reaffirmed that He sees a much bigger picture.” Because of the Body of Christ, “our pain is everyone’s pain, and the goodness and graces can also be shared. Now we see that the bulk of our suffering and the prayers of others were for her. Our suffering didn’t get us anything better – we’ve lost a lot of money through the house. The redemption that came was for her. But her blessings are our blessings, too. I feel blessed.”
Like I said, our personal crosses are curious things.
You can read more about Jude and Alisha at their blog, Those Landrys.
Image credit: Come Thou Font print, Jude Landry.