Don’t Go Looking For Crosses to Carry

The Holiness of the Here and Now – Part 61

And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”

–1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV)

You do not need to go looking for crosses, but only to submit with faith and love to the order of providence, accepting what it gives you to do or to suffer.

–Jean Pierre de Caussade

“If God likes that, he’ll love this.” This is the kind of thinking that was influencing King Saul when Samuel issued his rebuke, of which 1 Samuel 15:22 is a part. Saul was commanded to destroy the enemy’s sheep and oxen in battle. That is what obedience would have looked like in this case. Instead, he kept some to offer as sacrifices to God (that was his story, at least), and he did this at the urging of the people he was supposed to be leading.

“If God likes sacrifices and offerings, he’ll love these.” In thinking this way, Saul and the people with him missed the point of the very sacrifices they were purporting to make. We may think we are above such reasoning, but we are not. And, in our case, it sounds just as silly: “If God likes suffering, he’ll love what I am going through!”

We are indeed capable of making the same mistake, although we would not use those words. Fortunately, we can avoid this by keeping a few things in mind. First, sacrifice and suffering are not the same thing, although they are often experienced at the same time. Second, God is still interested in obedience. It is true that obedience often means suffering, but this does not mean that additional suffering and sacrifice increase your obedience. Finally, the suffering that comes out of obedience is often referred to as a cross because it kills our self-love. Such crosses, by their very nature, cannot be self-chosen.

The Holiness of the Here and Now is a daily devotional that I am currently working on. When I am finished, there will be 365 chapters like the one above. Meanwhile, I am sharing this work-in-progress. Like the Facebook page to see content like this in your feed.