We all have crosses. Sometimes it seems like we can carry them with joy and ease, and sometimes we feel crushed by them. We try as hard as we can to eliminate our crosses, but they always seem to pop up again as soon as we are getting our lives on track. How should we respond? Scripture gives us some clues.
Jesus was not alone when he carried his cross. He was accompanied by two men, who were crucified on his right and on his left. The man on his left was full of anger and bitterness and hatred. He reviled Jesus even as they were both dying the same death. He resented his cross.
The man on his right was not happy to be dying a painful death. However, he realized he had earned it by his bad choices. He therefore accepted his cross.
Jesus himself had chosen the Way of the Cross. He could have backed out at any time. However, he knew that we needed salvation, and the Cross was the best way to set us free. He therefore embraced his cross.
Most of the time we resent our crosses. The Scriptures invite us to first accept them, and then embrace them. I am not talking here of self-inflicted sufferings, such as the consequences of an addiction when we refuse treatment. Nor am I speaking of avoidable sufferings, such as being abused by a spouse or harassed at work. These things must be rejected. I am speaking of all the unavoidable sufferings. Rather than resent them, we need to accept and eventually embrace them.
Suffering humbles us. It shows us how weak we are. It brings us to our knees. But it also makes us turn to God. Ultimately, in the great Biblical showdown between Good and Evil, we have only two choices: 1) To Love, and so to suffer the painful consequences, or 2) to give up loving all together. Some of the greatest graces in my life have first appeared as crosses. But when I as able to accept and embrace them, they became incredible blessings. If we embrace our crosses, the pain of suffering and dying will be transformed into the joy of the Resurrection.