A friend told me once Christ didn’t ask us to pick up our feather pillows and follow him. But I heard a pastor say once that Jesus has a beautiful plan for my life and you can understand the confusion swirling about in my soul.
I tell someone recently that I want to adorn the gospel, I want to make it look beautiful, and he looks right down at me and says, “You can’t.” I turn my head sideways and challenge him. “You can’t.” He says. “You’re going to fail because it’s not your job to make the gospel look beautiful; Christ is the only one who can do that.”
It’s okay to carry a cross, I think, as long as I’m stripping and sanding and priming and repainting it all the way. As long as I take it down to its barebones, deep in its sap filled lines, its grooves and knots, down to its natural way, I will carry this cross. Stripping it of the effects of modernity and church-culture, catch phrases and empty, “I’ll pray for yous.” Repainting it beautifully. Showing it to be something that doesn’t hurt, not when you lift with your knees or carry it this way or that.
I want to make theology sayable, that’s the whole purpose and vision of my life. I want to make real what seems unreachable, ethereal, intangible. I want to turn words over in my mouth until they are palatable and show you how it matters that we feed ourselves on rich, nutrient-filled, whole gospel. This is the beautiful cross I want to carry.
But what happens when it is not beautiful?
What happens when Christ says in this life you will have sorrow. You will have persecution. You will not see in whole. What happens then?
When the beautiful plan for my life means trudging up a long and lonely hill, to a place of death over and over again, carrying a cross that is not pretty, is not perfect, is not comfortable?
What happens when what God says is true pushes me into tight places, uncomfortable choices, unpopular votes? Into the full ugliness of a brutal cross? What then?
There are some things about faith that are not beautiful, friend. There are going to be unpopular decisions ahead of you; times when you doubt the goodness of God in the land of the living. You are going to stumble under the weight of what He’s asked you to do and I want you to know something: that’s okay.
The gospel is beautiful. It is. It is almost fairy-tale in its beauty—only it’s true. Our King is coming, reigning, taking dominion over the brokenness we see around us—and we are living a vapor. There are some aspects Gospel Living that do not seem beautiful until we’ve pressed through, been refined, & have seen Christ in all His fullness.
If you are His child, in this life you will have trouble. But your King is on His throne and He knows whose names are held more dearly to Him than anything you treasure here on earth.
He goes before, He fights for you, He protects His own, and He makes it more beautiful than we can imagine.