“Then he called his disciples and the crowds to come over and listen. “If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “You must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross and follow me closely.” Mark 8:34 TLB
It occurred to me the other day that I’ve never explained in my blog why my faith in Jesus Christ is so important. I’m breaking my explanation into three blog posts called the Resurrection Series. This post talks about Lent and Jesus’ sacrifice. The next two talk about what we now call “Holy Week” and Easter. I also pray my applications to your journey of chronic illness will be encouraging to you.
Lent is the six-week season that leads up to Easter, and we’re currently in the fourth week of Lent. The Lenten season is one of the most significant times of the year for many Christians around the world, especially those within the Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox churches, held at a comparable level of meaning to Advent, the arrival of Christmas.
From its start date on Ash Wednesday until its conclusion on Easter Sunday, Lent is a time for fasting or giving something up. Lent focuses on the idea that giving up something that’s a regular part of life—a habit, like smoking, watching TV, swearing; or a food or drink, such as sweets, chocolate, or coffee–can be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice. As we sacrifice, we think of his sacrifice.
What exactly was Jesus’ sacrifice?
The Pocket Testament League explains it like this. God created the world, including you. At first, everything was good, exactly as God made it. But we made wrong choices and committed wrong actions…and we still do. We fail to live up to God’s standards, and so we’re guilty. The Bible calls this “sin.” Our sin separates us from God.
When Jesus died on the cross, he took the punishment for YOUR sin (mine, too, and all people’s sin), creating a pathway between God and you. God proved that He accepted Jesus’ death as the way to life by raising Jesus from the dead. Jesus Christ is the only way for us to reach God. When you accept Jesus as your Savior, he steps in your place when God wants to judge you “guilty” after you die, and says, “No, this person is righteous,” and you get something amazing–a personal relationship with God and life with him forever in heaven! It’s a gift we don’t deserve but should gladly accept.
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.‘ John 14:6 NIV
Jesus traveled from place to place with nowhere to lay his head or know where his next meal was coming from, but he knew his Father, God, would provide all he needed. He was beaten, ridiculed, spit on, betrayed, flogged, stripped, forced to wear a crown of thorns and carry a very heavy cross that he was eventually crucified on and died. So, he knows what pain and suffering feels like. He knows what betrayal and misunderstanding look like. He’s been at crossroads and confusing places. He’s known agonizing pain that is beyond any pain that any human has ever suffered.
And now, with all that he experienced, he sits beside God in heaven, interceding for us.
“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34 NIV
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
As a person with three chronic illnesses, two of which can be very debilitating, it’s taken me a long time to come to some understanding and acceptance of these illnesses without being bitter.
I believe God allowed these illnesses into my life not only to relate in some small way to Jesus’ sacrifice, but to:
- be a comfort to others who are suffering
- be totally dependent on God for my daily strength and wisdom
- lean on God as a shelter when life just gets too tough
- know I can talk to Him anytime, day or night, through prayer
- be grateful each day for every breath, for every step
Giving up my health, some of my dreams, my ability to enjoy certain activities, my relationships with those who don’t understand, my finances, and my work because of my illnesses is tough, but sharing these disappointments and defeats with Jesus gives me an unexpected joy and peace in the midst of them.
Some of you are homebound, bed bound, wracked with pain, financially strained or bankrupt from so many treatments that may or may not have worked, feeling hopeless, feeling weak, physically and mentally exhausted. You’ve already given up so much, but have you ever received God’s greatest gift, his Son, Jesus?
God loves YOU very much and wants you to love Him in return. You’re here because of His love. Invite Jesus into your life and the messiness of your illness this Lenten season and know for absolute certainty that you will be guided and protected by God’s loving hand as you live, and that you will be with God forever upon your death.
Although I included a few Bible references in this blog post, I encourage you to read the book of John in the New Testament. You can download the Pocket Testament’s Read Care Share app on your smartphone to read the book of John and get additional information on accepting Jesus as your Savior, or you can go to their website to request a Gospel of John booklet. I hope it pierces your heart, and you claim him as YOUR Lord. You will have an Easter celebration like no other!