Finding Strength in the Cross

I watched a YouTube video called Hand Lettering Step by Step by Marzi. She suggested starting out by simply writing out the words and circling the words to emphasize.  As I thought about the verse:  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me”, the Word I most wanted to emphasize was Christ.  What I really wanted to do was change the verse to “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  But I generally like to be faithful to the translation, so I decided to place a cross in the midst of the verse so that it would be clearer who gives me strength.  Reflecting on the cross in the midst of this verse took my thoughts in an unexpected direction.

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As I illustrated the verse and focused on the cross, I found myself flipping through a little book called The Furrow by Josemaria Escriva (given to me by a Catholic friend when I was going through a trying time in life) and making a list of the ways the cross gives me strength for daily living.  The list got long, but it occurred to me I could organize the list by the fruits of the spirit.  We need strength most when facing trials and difficulties; it’s in these moments that I tend to reflect most earnestly on the cross.

Love:  Most of all when I think of the cross I think of love that endures, love that is deeper and broader than my mind can conceive.  When I deeply and truly reflect on the cross, I feel moved to be more loving to everyone in my life and God.  I want to work, study, and accept any difficulties in love.  I desire to lovingly spend time in the Word, and of course, to welcome the preschoolers to my Sunday School class in love.  I hope to be a loving, playful presence to my family and even when I get busy with cooking, picking up toys, laundry, and cleaning, I hope my family knows that the tasks are completed in love, to make the way a little easier for all of us. Jesus told us to love others as he loves us.  When I look to the cross, I know this is a tall order, but my resolve to follow Christ’s command is strengthened.

Joy:  The cross teaches me to expect all my sorrows to turn to joy.  Sometimes when I see the cross, I think, I can’t go that way, but Jesus whispers in my heart:  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  I know I don’t have any choice but to follow Jesus wherever that takes me.  I feel assured that I’ll find joy on the way.

Peace :  The cross gives me peace even when the road is steep and helps me to keep calm in the face of worry.  When life is difficult and it feels like everything is getting ahead of me, the cross gives me the courage and strength to simply ask for more grace.  The cross helps me to forget about small and petty things and focus on what matters, which always gives me greater peace.

Patience:  The cross has taught me to expect difficulties in life.  In life’s big trials, the cross assures me I can endure.  And I find myself leaning on the cross in those little awkward moments of everyday living, too:  family difficulties, feeling misunderstood, running late with slow traffic ahead.  (Truthfully, sometimes it seems harder to remember the cross in these smaller trials.)  The cross teaches me to be content in all circumstances.

Kindness:   The cross reminds me that every person faces struggles and gives me the strength to be more kind to others.

Faithfulness:  The cross teaches me that everything that happens to me is for my own good and that difficulties can be overcome and reminds me that I always have a trusted guide and friend in Jesus.

Goodness:  The cross reminds me that very little is asked of me compared to what I have been given through Jesus.  It helps me to understand Jesus better and to see my own humility before God more clearly.  It teaches me to give of myself fully, to offer my best to God without worrying about the outcome.

Gentleness:  The cross is a reminder of our mortality.  When I think of the cross, I am reminded that I could die at any moment and so could my loved ones.  This reminder always strengthens my resolve to enjoy the time that I have on earth with those I love.  (At the same time, the cross reminds me that Jesus won victory over death.)

Self-control:  The cross gives me the strength to face the fact that there are things I do well and things I do badly.  The cross helps me face up to my weaknesses and not lose heart.

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