The life of a Christian is hard. Eternal glory awaits!
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Book of Luke, 9:23
“Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Book of Ecclesiastes, 1:2
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
What Is Your Cross?
Your cross is not so much a single thing as it is your entire life.
Through the good and the bad, through the sun and the rain, the day and the night, you must carry the burden given to you. You must carry it, even unworthily as you possibly can, to merit favor of the one who carried a much heavier cross.
There will be times when it seems like God has forsaken you and turned His face from you, His very warmth.
Whenever this happens, it is worth noting that He is testing your faith and in turn setting you up for greater reverence. Only the fool believes that he has the full presence of God with him at all times, maybe he does, but he is like a child who is never let out of their parent’s sight; and is much weaker for it.
But God is always watching and is always near, even when he might not seem like it.
So now we must nurture deeper worship of God. There are many ways to do this. In fact, everything you do can be a sacrifice in the eyes of God.
Offer your suffering to God and ask not for the alleviation of hard battles but the strength to overcome them.
Create music and art and literature glorifying Him. Toil while building a house for your family, cook for your family, and act as a beacon of God’s light in the darkness of adversity and trials.
Glorify God as Jesus did when He was a carpenter. Do your job and treat others the best you can to glorify God.
And of course, pray.
Meditate on the Word of God, on Jesus’s sacrifice, and the mysterious and monolithic beauty of God and all creation.
God summons you to pray to Him, literally and figuratively, as He is the one pulling the strings but yet waiting for the puppets’ actions.
Ask God for things knowing that you don’t need a single thing — a single thing of which that He does not already have in store for you.
God knows your faults — ask Him what they may be and He will tell you.
Submit to His Will and forsake your own Will.
Be thankful for what you have and humble yourself in His presence.
What is in store for you in Heaven or what will you have to suffer in Hell?
Let’s start with the fun part — Hell!
It is said that Hell is not a literal place of fire but instead a realm absent of God. The absence of God, not sadistically added punishment, brings the most anguish.
That is why in the opposite place, Heaven, the fullest presence of God brings the greatest joy. It is said that the devil would give everything and suffer even worse than he already does just for one more second to look at the face of God.
So why did he betray God in the first place when he was set to look at him for all eternity? While the devil exists literally, there is also a metaphorical devil which acts as a cautionary tale for us and what we may become if we too forsake God.
You may think that well at least the devil could know upfront that God is real and bask in His glorious presence, but ask yourself this: can you too not also do the same?
Can you not know for certain that God is real?
What is stopping you from becoming a monk or a nun?
The only answer you can give will lay in the ambitions you have, trite and vain ambitions such as the devil also has, and these ambitions can only come from one thing — pride.
And no I am not saying that the best thing to do in life is to become a monk, but I only asked this question to see what was holding you back from giving your entire life to God.
And we have gotten way off track, but maybe for the best. Just know this, God has given you everything you need and more so, and enough reasoning to make a choice for where you would rather end up.
“Better to reign in Hell, then serve in Heav’n.” Paradise Lost, (Book 1, Line 263) John Milton.
Now let’s get to the boring part — Heaven.
The quote above comes from the poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. Milton gives this reason for why the devil did what he did. It is almost laughable, but also sad that a lot of people would agree with this form, or imagination, of the devil in today’s world.
Imagine the worst pain you have ever felt, multiplied by infinity, and then multiplied by infinity once more, that is Hell.
But wouldn’t that at least be more interesting than Heaven, sitting around playing the harp all day?
I will do my best to explain why it wouldn’t.
If Hell is like a bug flipped on its back trying to get back to its natural state — on its legs — then Heaven is the bug flying; and of course, it has a smile on its face.
The way we are living right now is as if we slept on a bed of nails. Now, of course, it’s not the best, but it could be worse. But in Heaven, our mattress would be the softest wool of the angels.
It is said that once God tells you His full plan (which will justify all things), or even before that when you get to see His full presence for the first time — that you will not care in the slightest about anything in your previous life. Anything!
It doesn’t matter if you were the saddest man on earth or the happiest, you will be content — exuberant just the same in Heaven.
Even the slightest worry that you could lose even a single bit of joy is gone because Heaven is eternal. You will finally be in your natural state, the naked, pure soul created by God.
We are not yet able to comprehend the full glory of Heaven.
We must persevere.
Another thing that you have to look forward to in Heaven, if you were disappointed when you realized that you had to work half of your life on this planet, is that: In the afterlife, there is no more work.
Just kidding— there is work — eternal work!
So work for eternity? I guess: Unless you want to go to Hell; I don’t think there’s any work there as there is no time to work considering all the suffering you would have to do.
But the work in heaven is the best job. It is not the sufferable toil of the cursed work in this world.
Who Are You?
You are, right now, to extremely simplify this, a hammer and you are trying to be an axe.
It is not your natural state to work for who you were made in the image of? It is not God’s nature to stop working, though he did take a break on Sunday.
It is not within our nature to stop working altogether either. God has unlimited creativity and that needs an outlet.
Look at how many species of frogs — each one beautiful and comedic — that is an artist with too much time on His hands.
Look at how many galaxies that He created, how many stars that no one, besides the angels, will ever see, or at least until we can fly and teleport with our new transfigured bodies in heaven.
Everything you ever wanted and more is in store in Heaven!
As a beautiful curse, or better yet, a graceful blessing, you have a soul from God within you!
You have most all the qualities of God, though in magnitudes of reduced forms — in things such as reason, thought, and rationality.
You also have the ability to create . . . you can enjoy music, appreciate the beauty in nature, and fulfill the duties of your lot.
You can cry and you can laugh.
With the recognition of all the qualities of God that you have inside of you, as well as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you can enjoy this life fully!
The Promise of Heaven
You are levels above the capabilities of the animals in this life, but even then, yet another thousand levels lay above us, to the place where the angels reside. Our spirit has not yet fully developed. But in time, if you let it, it will.
Even then, you will still pray to die rather quickly as your love for God will increase and so too will your hatred of the demonic influences on this world increase.
But with the promise of Heaven, you can persevere and overcome anything. Know it is our lot to fully be thankful, fully appreciative, and prepare ourselves in the long journey set in store for our souls as we are, as it is, none other than babies in the grand scheme of things.
We have yet to grow.
If we take into account how we can barely remember yesterday, why are we still troubled by the afflictions of yesteryear?
Each day we get closer to death, and a stone is thrown onto the unceasingly elongated tower of our suffering.
With this constant forgetting and fleeting of time, we shall find sooner, rather than later, that our tower of stones now reaches to the gates of Heaven.
We shall then look down the infinite depths, down to the chambers of Hell, and be grateful that all our once fretful memories and harrowing temptations lie locked away while they burn forever in the lake of fire; as then we will gaze at God and feel peaceful joy.
Eternal elation is but a stone away from the false remembrance of a halcyon made up of the vanity in this life.
Carry your cross forever and ever! Never let it down, not even for a second. Look to God and never look back. Lift your cross above your head! Lift it up to Heaven! Raise it up to God!
May God be with us! Amen!
“The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek rest and enjoyment for yourself? You deceive yourself, you are mistaken if you seek anything but to suffer, for this mortal life is full of miseries and marked with crosses on all sides. Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases.
"Set yourself, then, like a good and faithful servant of Christ, to bear bravely the cross of your Lord, Who out of love was crucified for you. Be ready to suffer many adversities and many kinds of trouble in this miserable life, for troublesome and miserable life will always be, no matter where you are; and so you will find it wherever you may hide. Thus it must be; and there is no way to evade the trials and sorrows of life but to bear them. Drink the chalice of the Lord with affection if you wish to be His friend and to have part with Him. Leave consolation to God; let Him do as most pleases Him. On your part, be ready to bear sufferings and consider them the greatest consolation, for even though you alone were to undergo them all, the sufferings of this life are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. When you shall have come to the point where suffering is sweet and acceptable for the sake of Christ, then consider yourself fortunate, for you have found paradise on earth. But as long as suffering irks you and you seek to escape, so long will you be unfortunate, and the tribulation you seek to evade will follow you everywhere. If you put your mind to the things you ought to consider, that is, to suffering and death, you would soon be in a better state and would find peace.
"Although you were taken to the third heaven with Paul, you were not thereby insured against suffering. Jesus said: “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” To suffer, then, remains your lot, if you mean to love Jesus and serve Him forever. If you were but worthy to suffer something for the name of Jesus, what great glory would be in store for you, what great joy to all the saints of God, what great edification to those about you! For all men praise patience though there are few who wish to practice it. With good reason, then, ought you to be willing to suffer a little for Christ since many suffer much more for the world. Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God. No man is fit to enjoy heaven unless he has resigned himself to suffer hardship for Christ. Nothing is more acceptable to God, nothing more helpful for you on this earth than to suffer willingly for Christ. If you had to make a choice, you ought to wish rather to suffer for Christ than to enjoy many consolations, for thus you would be more like Christ and more like all the saints. Our merit and progress consist not in many pleasures and comforts but rather in enduring great afflictions and sufferings. If, indeed, there were anything better or more useful for man’s salvation than suffering, Christ would have shown it by word and example. But He clearly exhorts the disciples who follow Him and all who wish to follow Him to carry the cross, saying: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” When, therefore, we have read and searched all that has been written, let this be the final conclusion — that through much suffering we must enter into the kingdom of God.” —The Imitation of Christ, Thomas A. Kempis
“But God hath introduced Man to be a spectator of Himself and of His works; and not a spectator only, but also an interpreter of them. Wherefore it is a shame for man to begin and to leave off where the brutes do. Rather he should begin there, and leave off where Nature leaves off in us: and that is at contemplation, and understanding, and a manner of life that is in harmony with herself. See then that ye die not without being spectators of these things.
“What then? Do I say man is not made for an active life? Far from it! . . . But there is a great difference between other men’s occupations and ours. . . . A glance at theirs will make it clear to you. All day long they do nothing but calculate, contrive, consult how to wring their profit out of food-stuffs, farm-plots and the like. . . . Whereas, I entreat you to learn what the administration of the World is, and what place a Being endowed with reason holds therein: to consider what you are yourself, and wherein your Good and Evil consists” —Golden Sayings of Epictetus, Epictetus
“I want to pause here and spend some time contemplating God; to reflect on his attributes and to gaze with wonder and adoration on the beauty of this immense light, so far as the eye of my darkened intellect can bear it. For just as we believe through faith that the supreme happiness of the next life consists in contemplating the divine majesty, so experience tells us that this same contemplation, though much less perfect, provides the greatest joy we can have in this life.” —Meditations, René Descartes
“Yet, Lord, to Thee, the Creator and Governor of the universe, most excellent and most good, thanks were due to Thee our God, even hadst Thou destined for me boyhood only. For even then I was, I lived, and felt; and had an implanted providence over my well-being — a trace of that mysterious Unity whence I was derived; I guarded by the inward sense the entireness of my senses,and in these minute pursuits, and in my thoughts on things minute, I learnt to delight in truth, I hated to be deceived, had a vigorous memory, was gifted with speech, was soothed by friendship, avoided pain, baseness, ignorance. In so small a creature, what was not wonderful, not admirable? But all are gifts of my God: it was not I who gave them to me; and good these are, and these together are myself. Good, then, is He that made me, and He is my good; and before Him will I exult for every good which of a boy I had. For it was my sin, that not in Him, but in His creatures — myself and others — I sought for pleasures, sublimities, truths, and so fell headlong into sorrows, confusions, errors. Thanks be to Thee, my joy and my glory and my confidence, my God, thanks be to Thee for Thy gifts; but do Thou preserve them to me. For so wilt Thou preserve me, and those things shall be enlarged and perfected which Thou hast given me, and myself shall be with Thee, since even to be Thou hast given me.” —Confessions, St. Augustine