You wanted…. what? Jesus to take away your troubles like a Xanax? God to fix everything so you can come back in 2 hours and have the car ready to drive? You wanted a savior who would solve your problems so you wouldn’t have such a hard life?
Ooops. Wrong savior. In spite of many centuries of misguided or troubling theologies about the cross, and in contrast to many hymns we sing old and new that contradict Jesus’ own words about the cross, Jesus says it so plainly and directly it slaps the disciples (read: us) in the face:
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35)
So if Jesus does anything for us (and I do believe he does) he doesn’t take on the burden of his cross to save us from ours. He does just the opposite. He takes on the burden of his cross so we can take on ours. He makes the hard life of faithfulness possible and less lonely. He blazes the trail for us to follow. He creates a truly human life possible, lived under the mercy of God, blood, tears, death, and all.
Let’s just admit it. It’s really only the hard things in this life that end up telling us who we are, what we are made of, and what really matters. It is only the struggles we work through, successfully or not, that teach us the limits and the grandeur of being human. It is only the acceptance of suffering as a necessary part of the human condition that draws together and unites us as one in our fragile, bodily, humble reality. It is only in confronting our death and placing our lives wholly in the fatherly arms, the motherly embrace of God, that we can finally and truly live.
If Jesus took away our struggles and hard work and suffering, he would simply be taking away the meaning and purpose of our lives, as mysterious and inscrutable as it may all be to us most of the time. Don’t let Jesus’ cross take away yours. It wasn’t what he was about, and it leaves you with nothing meaningful left to do. By calling us into the hard work of a life of purpose, sacrifice, and loving others, Jesus gives us back our lives. He saves us from meaningless days and years of having nothing to do. He opens us up to see injustice and cruelty in the world and say, “Yeah, I guess if I don’t do something, no one else will.” He gives us back hard lives that aren’t about our small selves only, but about God’s bigger picture. Ooops…. right savior.