“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”
We don’t normally associate Lent with joy. Lent is all about remembering the wilderness, the fasting and self-denial, looking forward to the cross.
But Easter doesn’t end with the cross, it ends with the resurrection, it ends not in sorrow but in joy.
Joy experienced or joy anticipated is what fuels endurance. Those who have endured severe persecution often testify to the richness of their lives, their joy in the trials, not merely after they are over. In my Christian life I have so often forgotten this simple but powerful principle, the joy – both the experience and the promise – is what enables us to keep going.
So, when we read Jesus’ command to “…pick up your cross and follow Me”, it is indeed a call to self denial, a laying down of our rights and personal goals, perhaps our comforts and securities, but it is not a call to a life of misery. Quite the opposite. The night before His crucifixion, the night He was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matt 26:38), Jesus promised:
“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11).