How easily I become self-sufficient! How easily I worship comfort and money and ease! How easily I forget Jesus' demand to give up everything to follow him! How easily I lay down the cross he asks me to bear!
Then suffering steps in. It takes away the idols I refused to give up. It exposes the lie of my self-sufficiency. It brings me to my knees at the foot of the cross. It teaches me, once again, to bear my cross for the One who died for me.
I've seen this dynamic in my own life. Joni talks about in When God weeps*:
The cross is where we die. We got there daily. But it isn't easy ... The cross? We dig in our heels. The invitation is so frighteningly individual. It's an invitation to go alone...
We know it as a place of death. "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature..." (Colossians 3:5). Who wants to do that? Crucify his own pride? Kill his own daydreams and fantasies? Dig a grave for his pet worries?
We simply cannot bring ourselves to go to the cross. Nothing attracts us to it.
Thus we live independently of the cross. Or try to. As time passes, the memory of our desperate state when we first believed fades. The cross was something that happened to us "back then." We forget how hungry for God we once were. We grow self-sufficient ... We would hardly admit it, but we know full well how autonomous of God we operate.
This is where God steps in.
He permits suffering ... Suffering reduces us to nothing ... To be reduced to nothing is to be dragged to the foot of the cross. It's a severe mercy ... Suffering forces us to our knees at the foot of Calvary.
Joni Eareckson Tada When God weeps 135-136, 142.
* I don't love everything about what Joni writes on these pages, or perhaps I haven't quite got my head around it. What I loved and agreed with, I have shared with you here.