"Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it." - Matthew 16:24-25

There was a Catholic priest, born in 1651 and named Francois de Fenelon, who had an amazing relationship with God. He wrote a book called “The Seeking Heart,” which is one of those special books to which I refer often. Below is an excerpt from this book:

You need to learn to separate yourself from unnecessary and restless thoughts which grow out of self-love. When your own thoughts are set aside you will be completely in the middle of the straight and narrow path. You will experience the freedom and peace that is meant for you as a child of God.

I try to follow the same advice that I give others. I know that I must seek peace in the same way. Often when you suffer, it is the life of your self-nature that causes you pain. When you are dead you do not suffer. If you were completely dead to your old nature you would no longer feel many of the pains that now bother you.

Endure the aches and pains of your body with patience. Do the same thing with your spiritual afflictions (that is, trouble sent to you that you cannot control). Do not add to the cross in your life by becoming so busy that you have no time to sit quietly before God. Do not resist what God brings into your life. Be willing to suffer it; that is what is needed. Over activity and stubbornness will only increase your anguish.

God prepares a cross for you that you must embrace without thought of self-preservation. The cross is painful. Accept the cross and you will find peace even in the middle of turmoil. Let me warn you that if you push the cross away, your circumstances will become twice as hard to bear. In the long run, the pain of resisting the cross is harder to live with than the cross itself.

See God’s hand in the circumstances of your life. Do you want to experience true happiness? Submit yourself peacefully and simply to the will of God, and bear your sufferings without struggle. Nothing so shortens and soothes your pain as the spirit of non-resistance to your Lord.

As wonderful as this sounds, it still may not stop you from bargaining with God. The hardest thing about suffering is not knowing how great it will be or how long it will last. You will be tempted to want to impose some limits to your suffering. No doubt you will want to control the intensity of your pain.

Do you see the stubborn and hidden hold you have over your life? This control makes the cross necessary in the first place. Do not reject the full work that the power of the cross could accomplish in you. Unfortunately, you will be forced to go over the same ground again and again. Worse yet, you will suffer much, but your sufferings will be for no purpose.

’May the Lord deliver you from falling into an inner state in which the cross is not at work in you! God loves a cheerful giver.’ (II Corinthians 9:7)

Imagine how much He must love those who abandon themselves to His will cheerfully and completely—even if it results in their crucifixion!’
— Fenelon

Many times in our lives, when pain comes our way, we fail to realize that this is none other than the hand of God bringing the cross back into our lives, because He wants to crucify something inside of us that is not Godly or Holy. 

The subject of pain has been explained away by the modern church world as simply the devil attacking them, because God loves them too much to bring pain into the picture of our lives. Yes, God does use the devil (e.g. look in the book of Job), but all of this suffering is for our good and God’s glory.  

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." - Romans 8:28-29

The life of a believer and follower of Jesus Christ is a life filled with pain. Jesus did not go to the cross just to save us from death and hell, He also wants to save us from our self. He wants to conform us into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ Himself. He wants us to swap our carnal nature of the self-life for the Holy nature and character of Jesus, and this can only be done by the power of the cross in our lives. 

When pain comes, realize that it is none other than the hand of God bringing the cross back into your life. So instead of running from the cross, embrace it with thanksgiving, realizing that this is the only way, because we do not have the power to crucify our own flesh. Only God can do this, and He uses the cross and brings it into our life constantly so that we can be completely transformed to become the Bride of Jesus Christ. 

We would like to think that we have suffered enough, but an honest look into the mirror of God’s Word always shows that there is still a great work of God that needs to be done in our lives. The cross is our friend and not our enemy. It is the carnal mind of man that is the enemy here. 

The devil attacks us at our weak points, as he always attacks us in our earthly attachments. If there is anything in our life to which we are too attached, then the devil knows that these places of earthly attachment are hard and difficult for us to deal with. This could be family members, jobs, careers, ministries, our reputations, money, and a whole host of other things. The devil is not after our money, or our friends, or our reputation; he is only attacking us in these places because he knows how to hit us where it hurts. 

The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. But what he is really after is your faith, your hope, and your love. He knows that if he can destroy your faith, then you will lose hope, and eventually lose the love of God in your life.

God allows the enemy to attack in these places of attachment, because God knows that if you are going to be transformed into the Bride of Jesus Christ that you will need to let go of all earthly attachments. These attachments can become idols in our hearts, and they must go. So while the devil is attacking us in our attachments, God is allowing this because He is working for our good and His glory. The devil actually becomes a tool that God uses to perfect us. But remember that God wants us to let go of and destroy the idols in our hearts. The devil doesn’t care about our idols; all he wants to do is to destroy our faith, our hope, and our love for God.

So the next time the cross comes in the midst of your life, first recognize it as the hand of God bringing you a friend. Don’t shrink back or run from the cross. Instead, embrace it with thanksgiving. The cross is none other than God loving on us, doing us a favor, and helping us toward our objective of becoming more like Jesus. God wants our carnal, worldly self-nature nailed up on the cross and crucified so that we can be transformed into the very Bride of Jesus Christ. 

"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." - Galatians 6:14

Pain is our friend. And when the believer accepts the cross and embraces it, he can find peace and joy right in the middle of his painful circumstances. 

"Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." - I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Bill Hudson

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