A man complained constantly about his heavy cross.
He decided to visit a religious store where he was told he could exchange his cross for a smaller one. The angelic store clerk first showed him a heavy cross carried by someone who was suffering from cerebral palsy. He shuddered as he studied it because he knew that he could never carry it.
Next the clerk showed him progressively smaller crosses until they came to the store’s tiniest cross.
“I want to exchange my cross for that one,” the complainer demanded.
The clerk laughed.
“Why are you laughing? This is serious!” scolded the man.
The clerk replied, “I’m laughing because the cross you want is the cross that you’re carrying now,” the clerk explained.
Sometimes we may think that our cross of suffering, difficulties or setbacks is heavy. Then we see others carrying much heavier crosses, and we realize that our cross is lighter than we thought.
Someone wrote, “I had the blues because I had no shoes, until I met a cheerful man with no feet!”
Many people today have crosses. Some suffer from broken relationships or from the death of a loved one. Others suffer from poor health or permanent crippling disabilities.
Some are killed, wounded, displaced in warfare or die from diseases. Children and older adults sometimes suffer from bullying. Others are treated like lepers. People of all ages often suffer from loneliness or lack of meaning.
My brother and his wife took turns suffering. She died from cancer and he is in assisted living.
In his book The Power Within You, Pat Williams wrote about Cordell Brown, a young cerebral palsy victim, who walked and talked with great difficulty. He had trouble feeding himself. When healthy people saw Cordell coming, they often turned the other way or pretended they didn’t see him.
Cordell was invited to speak to the Philadelphia Phillies in a pregame chapel service. What could he possibly say to these young healthy athletic baseball players? Some of the players asked themselves the same question.
Cordell began his talk by saying, “I know that I’m different, but by God’s grace, I am what I am!” Next he thanked God for his many blessings. He concluded by telling the players in a loving way, “You may hit .350 and earn a million or more dollars a year, but when you die and they close your casket, you won’t be any different than I am. I don’t need what you have, but you need what I have and that is Jesus Christ.”
We all know people who suffer. I shared this article with a friend recently, who replied, “My mom fell and really shattered her femur. I am the only child and I really feel like I am carrying Jesus’ cross. I know I am not, but ... thanks for sharing and waking me up to reality.”
Suffering calls forth heroism and compassion. The cross Cordell carried was much heavier than the cross the Phillies’ players, the complaining man or many of us carry; yet, he rarely complained. He demonstrated that the Risen Jesus doesn’t always take away our cross, but helps us to carry it. Good friends help too.
Lange, the former pastor of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Hazel Green, lives in Platteville.