Thursday, January 28, 2021

Grief Crosses That Never Heal

Grief Crosses That Never Heal

     Do you ever wonder why certain verses are in the Bible?

     "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (James 1:2-3, NIV)   

     Many converts to Christianity are unfamiliar with going through trials in their new walk with Jesus.  They were never taught this was the case.  In many denominations they’re told to just pray the sinner’s prayer and then they are saved and told, “Be sure to go to church Sunday.”

     To truly spread the Gospel we need to explain that God’s Plan of Salvation:  Expressing belief that Jesus is God’s Son, our Savior, Master and Lord needs to be followed by a mind changing choice to make a spiritual u-turn from following evil to following God and then being immersed is only the beginning of your new walk with Jesus.

     Scripture clearly shows after baptism new Christian's will likely end up in a desert suffering Satan's fiery darts as our Savior did. For example look at what the Apostle Paul said he had experienced as a Christian:

     “... I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent adrift at sea. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.”  (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, NAS)

     In many parts of the world becoming a Christian often leads to significant suffering and in some more fearsome and brutal cultures even death. God’s Word says it has often been this way both before the birth of Jesus and after: 

     “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.  Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:35-38, NIV)

Jesus’ Warning

     “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.   What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?  Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”  (Matthew 16:24-26, NIV)

     We may have to experience a horrid cross carrying like trial as millions have.  But the Lord promises our reward will be more than worth it...eternal life.

     Or we may bear a cross cut from other timber.  Mental illness, dementia, cancer, abandonment, isolation, untimely death of a child or other loved one, or one of an uncountable number of grief crosses that never heal.  But Jesus pleads with us that he'll help carry our cross. 

     “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).

     Can you make it through your heavy trial?  Scripture is ubiquitous with promises like: “Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Psalms 71:3, NIV)

Consider Liu ...

     Shikun was born in China and by age 3 was studying piano from a noted Russian instructor during the period when China and Russia were colleagues.  He started publicly performing by the age of five.  A short time later local teachers said he was progressing so quickly he needed to be trained in Institutes outside of China.

     In his teens this child prodigy competed in Budapest and won third place in a worldwide competition.  At age 18 he placed second to Van Cliburn in the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow.  Liu chose to remain in Moscow and, with his voracious desire to be the supreme pianist in the World continued training under Russia’s best.  But horror was on the horizon.

     Liu was to be thrown in prison in 1967 in the Chinese Cultural Revolution.  He remained in prison until 1973.  During those years he did not touch a piano.  One of his close friends has said that the prison guards delighted in beating Mr. Liu on the arms and elbows.

     Just after his release in 1973 Mr. Shikun was challenged to perform before a noteworthy audience of admirers and would-be peers.  There was not a dry eye in the house when Liu completed playing the Liszt Sixth Hungarian Rhapsody for which he received several encores.

     Preposterous! Absurd. Impossible.  The audience sat stunned.  No human could go without touching black and white keyboards for seven years and then perform perfectly without one flaw.  How had Liu been able to do so.  The taciturn and non-jovial Mr. Shikun refused to explain.  It finally surfaced when an associate of Liu said, “He said he played the Rhapsody every day in prison...but not on a keyboard instead on an imaginary keyboard in his cell.”

An Outcast

     In high school I was working on a dairy farm living with a family of 4… until the farmer got a logging contract 85 miles away.  I was  now all alone to fend for myself.  I shoveled manure, fed and grazed the cows while an older hired hand did most of the milking but returned to his family after each milking.  All alone in the farm house I searched for meals.  Quickly I found only 2 things to eat: canned peaches and loaves of bread.  As a result I broke out in boils.  Pus- oozing, skin tightening, painful stretching resembling a mini volcano and on the back of my neck where I could sure feel them but could not see them to adequately bandage them.  When the boil was nearly bursting I'd go to Wheeler Clinic and get them lanced.

     I felt dirty and like an outcast.  Who would want to be around a teen with sick looking  sores.  I understood somewhat how Job must have felt.  Finally a classmate told his family about it and they offered me room and board and $50 a month to work on their farm.  It was a God thing.  Sometimes our pathway may be grossly infested but the Path Master will never forsake us.  His gracious mercy turned ominous storm clouds into brilliant rainbows.  I thank God for the experience.  It was a major trial from which He taught me how to appreciate even the common things in life.

     If you were to ask me to compile a laundry list of things I must have to get by today you might be surprised by my answer.  Though I never want to be imprisoned or isolated all alone I think I would survive OK.

     On the other hand at this time in my life I really do appreciate a few things.  Listening to gospel music, sharing God's goodness in these stories posted online, having awesome memories, living in a pleasant apartment, convenience of a smartphone and a loving wife, kids, grandchildren and friends.

     If, when my time comes, and my last breath has passed, I hope my legacy will be as Thomas Campbell wrote "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die."

Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone?

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