When I survey the wondrous cross, I find strength to carry my own.
For the word of the cross . . . is the power of God.
—1 Corinthians 1:18
The Christian life can seem so impossible. Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him, but we are often clueless as to how to do it. We know Jesus doesn’t want us to stiffly resign ourselves to the weight of our cross or resentfully submit to the inconvenience of it. Or to cope with it or comply with a woe-is-me attitude. Even dry acceptance of one’s cross somehow seems less than what Jesus had in mind.
How we take up our cross depends largely on how we view Jesus’s cross.
Jesus secured many things for us at Calvary, but resurrection power is perhaps the greatest and most life-transforming benefit. Especially when we suffer. The apostle Paul wrote that he longed to “know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection, . . . [sharing] his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10). Resurrection power—that same mighty strength that raised Christ from the dead—is what is needed to bear a cross (Eph. 1:19–20). His mighty strength even enables us to do the unthinkable: sing sweetly under its weight.
The cross—whether yours or Christ’s—is all about crucifying sin. To take up your cross means to die to the sins that Jesus died for on his cross. You don’t do that by resigning yourself or by submitting, yielding, coping, or complying. It’s not dryly accepting your burden. Rather, when you die to sin, you put to death everything. You die to comparing your lot in life with others who seem to have it easier. When you die to whining or constantly chafing against your afflictions, God strengthens you with his resurrection power, enabling you to miraculously prefer Christ over comfort, the Lord over leisure, and even embrace the Redeemer when there is no relief from pain. Only the power of the resurrection enables you to lift your cross with grace.
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” is so fitting here.
It is the song that helps you to “pour contempt on all [your] pride.” It is the song of the sufferer who agrees his cross is not one ounce too heavy, nor one inch too long.1 It is the melody of a sufferer who will gladly go through hell and high water to be transformed like his Savior; one who refuses to coddle any sin that impaled his Lord. You feel no irksome itchiness to get out from underneath the cross God has assigned you. Even when it bites into your sanity and feels impossibly heavy, God pours out power to do the impossible. So you fall to your knees as you sing from your heart:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
When suffering nearly decimates you, when all looks dark and you wonder why you “signed up” for the Christian life in the first place—when grief numbs your soul and bitterness or despair foment in your heart—do not give up. Survey what Jesus did on his cross for you: at the cost of his own blood, he purchased the mighty strength of the resurrection for your impossible situation. And if God calls you into a deeper affliction, he will provide a deeper portion of Christ and his power.
That is worth singing about. To take up your cross God’s way is to live by dying, grow by diminishing, receive by giving, and gain by losing. Just what do you gain? More joy and delight, more peace and power than you can contain.
It’s what makes the cross so wondrous.
“They nailed him to a tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet. They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne. . . . They thought they had God with his back to the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated; they did not know that it was God himself who had tracked them down. He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”2
Meet the Author
Joni Eareckson Tada is CEO of Joni and Friends, a global ministry that serves the practical and spiritual needs of people with disabilities. She is also an artist and the author of numerous best-selling books, including Joni, A Place of Healing, and When God Weeps. Joni and her husband, Ken, reside in Calabasas, California.
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- St. Francis de Sales, “Francis de Sales,” Daily Prayers, accessed June 2, 2021, https://www.daily-prayers.org/
- *James Stewart, Jesus (Torrance, MA: Rose, 2009), 13.