Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What Your Complaining Girlfriend Doesn't Know

Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me."
~ Mark 8:34, NLT ~

We all know at least one.

The person(s) carrying a heavy load, difficulties, bad circumstances who is perpetually downcast, self-absorbed, and complaining...  They make us cross the street when we see them... or mute the ringer when their number comes up on Caller ID.  It isn't that they don't have reason to be sad, or upset, or whining.  It's just that they never do anything else but.

What I wish my complaining girlfriends could learn is what God taught me years ago: Getting my mind off my own burdens and onto another person's lightens my own cross.

When I look at someone else's pressing challenges, mine seem to shrink in comparison.  More than once I have leaned on another person during my season of trouble, only to have that person suddenly learn that someone very close to them (a spouse, a child, a parent) had cancer.  Also more than once, I have felt that my marriage is a disaster only to find friends who seem like they have minor troubles getting divorced. 

When it comes to our kids' difficulties, the story is no different.  I can remember chatting with a girlfriend whose son was non-verbal, in a wheelchair, and facing serious surgery.  While I found her situation most unenviable, she told me she would much rather deal with her son's issue than having to put an IV in her son every-other-day like I had to with mine.  My years in ministry watching parents interact is no different from that conversation.  In nearly 14 years I have seen compassion pour from one parent to another time after time, though both are enduring personal trials with their children.  I guess the old adage is true that most of us would not trade our own problems for another person's.

Now, lest I sound overly harsh to the complainer, let me acknowledge that we all fall at times when we are carrying our cross.  Even Jesus did!  The key to getting back up is twofold.  First, fixing our eyes heavenward gives us the hope to persevere and press onward.  We take our sights off our heavy troubles and instead look at the One who is capable of handling any trial or circumstance.  Second, just as Jesus needed help from Simon of Cyrene to carry his cross to the finish line, we sometimes need that extra help to make it to the end.  "A problem shared is a problem halved," is solid truth.  The key is to not treat every bump in the road as if it is a major boulder.

One final insight I have gleaned over the years that my perpetually complaining girlfriends don't have:  My cross is Jesus' cross.  When I suffer with my heart united to Him, I share in His suffering and He shares in mine.  If that is the case, I lighten the cross of Christ when I lighten my cross by refocusing my sight on others.  My burdens become lighter when I lift another person by simply listening, validating, and affirming them in the midst of their journey.  These simple acts of tenderness are a huge relief in a world where everyone is too busy to care.  They draw us from the frantic superficiality of the moment into deeper relationship with one another and God.

As we focus this week on Jesus' final journey carrying the weight of the world's sin on His shoulders, remembering that reframing the way we view our own cross can transform our lives from torture to eternal hope.  Complaining can diminish when compassion becomes our focus.  It may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes the very moment we need to get over ourselves is the moment when we're feeling the worst.  Now THAT is how Jesus lived.

PRAY:  My Load-Bearer, thank You for modeling for me how to bear my own cross with perseverance, kindness, and grace.  May I be Your example to others around me, because I know that You have blessed me in order to be a blessing.

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