The cross we bear, the crown we wear

By Dave Henning / December 8, 2012

In Chapter 11 of Where is God When It Hurts?, author Phillip Yancey cites Martin Luther King, Jr., who discusses taking up one’s cross as a follower of Christ:

“Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.  To be a Christian one must take up his cross, with all its difficulties and agonizing and tension-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its mark upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way which only comes through suffering.”

Phillip Yancey applies this concept to the suffering endured in German concentration camps during the Holocaust.  Even though the camps were the closest thing to a completely regulated behavioristic environment and completely erased all semblance of individuality, survivors could transform the diabolic suffering they endured.  Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim summarized the lesson such survivors learned:

“It (our experience) taught us that there is meaning to life, difficult though that meaning my be to fathom- a much deeper meaning than we had thought possible before we became survivors.”

The cross the survivors bore took them to the pit of despair, yet Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place) could affirm her trust in God, who watched over her in love: “However deep the pit, God’s love is greater still.”

As Phillip Yancey concludes, we don’t have the foresight to know in advance how our suffering can be transformed into a crown, but we are asked to believe: “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”


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Dave Henning

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