by Travis Bryan III
Taking Up the Cross Means Holding Your Pain
The big question, as long as we remain in this world, is “what do we do with our pain?” Do we lash out in anger, slander, retaliation or planned revenge on account of it? Do we numb it with drugs or drown it in alcohol? Do we push it down deep and block it out? Do we try to escape it with entertainment, trips or shopping? Do we shift the blame or make someone else our scapegoat in order to feel better about ourselves? Or do we play the victim?
Pain can be mental, physical or spiritual. The world is a tragic place and full of pain. You cannot avoid it. It will inevitably come to you when you walk out your door, and even before you walk out your door. You don’t have to seek it out. It is in you and around you every day. Common causes of your pain are: disease, offenses against you, unfair treatment, disrespect of you or your rights, people that rub you the wrong way, being pulled out of your comfort zone, loss of financial security, war, weather, boredom, afflictions, anguish, accidents, bruised ego, humiliations, betrayals, death of people important to you, rejection, crime, your own failure, sin (your own or others), etc. You become hurt both inside and out. What do you do with these wounds?
There are only two responses to pain. We can either hold it or transmit it. We can accept it as an opportunity for transformation or we can react to it in some fleshly way like retaliating against the person we perceive to be responsible. We can either let it do its work in us or we can pass it back or onto to someone else. We are commanded by Jesus to take up the cross daily. Luke 9:23-24. I believe this means we are to hold our pain without transmitting it or passing it on to someone else.
Transformation happens when we hold our pain and refuse to react to it. Paul writes that we should “present our bodies as a living sacrifice.” This is the only way our minds can be renewed and we are transformed. Rom 12:1-2. We must present ourselves to life’s events and the pain they will bring your way. When it happens, we don’t play the victim, make excuses, shift the blame or make someone else our scapegoat. We simply let our pain burn down deep within. This burning pain has a beneficial effect. It burns away the corrupt old self within us. I repeat, this is the only way the old selfish self in us will ever die. Through the suffering, we die before we die. We die to self! Suffering is the only thing that can destabilize our independence, arrogance and pride!
This can only be done through our faith that God is bringing something positive out of the negative forces coming against you. We believe God will make something out of nothing. This faith is “the faith of Jesus Christ,” the faith of Calvary. Gal 2:16, 20; Phili 3:10. This is the message of the cross: that God works all (negative) things together for good (positive) for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Rom 8:28. It was the faith of Joseph operating when he said to his corrupt brothers, “What you meant to me for evil, God meant for good.” Gen 50:20. But if we fail to hold our pain and try to effect our own revenge or self-saving-solution we will miss the positives and only perpetuate and multiply the negatives.
This is the truth of the cross. God, through His Son Jesus, took the blows and held the pain without any retaliation, grudge, self pity, scapegoating or complaint. This absorbing of blows and holding of pain is what led to the formation of a glorious new creation which is still in the process of coming forth through the principle of the cross. 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 4:22-24. Jesus was willing to become the scapegoat to end all scapegoating. As we daily take up the cross, we must be willing to be undeserving scapegoats, too., and hold the pain of others.
Those mocking Jesus at Calvary said things like “save yourself and us too.” Yet, He stayed on the cross. Luke 23:39. He refused to call down armies of angels or to drink the wine that would have numbed his pain. Luke 23:36. Had He done any of these, it would have been a failure by Jesus to hold His pain and wait faithfully on God. We also are called to this same faith choice, sometimes many times daily. This is what it means to take up the cross. It is to hold your pain. Can we choose to just suffer with Christ and not come down from the cross to save our selves?
Holding our pain sometimes requires that we remain for a while on the cross of confusion, darkness, uncertainty, limbo, insecurity and hurts. Our flesh screams out against this. Are we willing to remain confused and in the dark for a little while trusting that God will give us clarity when we are patient?
Faith is so all important to this process of holding your pain. We believe God is working out a blessing in the midst of our curse, raising us up to life out of our death, and perfecting power out of our weakness. 2 Cor 12:7-10.
Our pain can be due to the suffering of others. Are we willing to self-sacrificially love others and bear the their pain? Gal 6:1-5. Or do we reject suffering with others and say, “No, I will not bear their pain because they made their own bed!” Remember, Jesus bore our pain when we were at fault. Taking up the cross means bearing the pain of others, a suffering you don’t deserve! It is even bearing the pain of an enemy.
To hold your pain is to see it, observe its intensity, feel it fully, endure it and, in faith, let it do its work in you without passing it back or onto someone else. We hold it by refusing to act on it or trying to escape it. This includes holding our pain and, instead, giving self-sacrificial love to enemies and others. Misery loves company but we should always refuse to force others to suffer with us. We don’t play the victim in order to put guilt on someone else. And we don’t make victims out of others either, even when they deserve it. Jesus is the truest victim ever but He endured His pain without ever playing the victim or causing His enemies to suffer. He refused to take on a victim identity as many tend to do today. For many today, victimhood is their meal ticket. Not so with Jesus. His real victimization was made by Him into a blessing. Complaining or letting everyone know how badly you have been hurt is not the same as holding your pain.
Here are biblical examples of persons who by faith held their pain:
Job: For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me. Job 19:25-27;
Jonah: “I cried by reason of my affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said , I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. Jonah 2:2-4;
God: Woe is me for my hurt! My wound is grievous: but I said, Truly this is a grief, and I must bear it. Jer 10:19;
Jeremiah: But, O Lord of hosts, that judgest righteously, that triest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I revealed my cause. Jer 11:20.
O Lord, thou knowest: remember me, and visit me, and remember me of my persecutors, take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered rebuke. Jer 15:15;
Jesus: Why hast thou forsaken me? Mark 15:34. Father, forgive them. They know not what they do. Luke 23:43. Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said this he gave up the ghost. Luke 23:46.
Transformation can only happen through our experience of the pain and suffering of the cross of Christ. Are we willing? Can we absorb and hold it?
Paul: Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of a things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is thru the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phili 3:9-11.
Taking up the cross is being willing to hold your pain and believing that resurrection is coming!