Isn’t the Christian life about getting better? And in the meantime, what am I supposed to do with all my stuff? I’ve been a Christian now for years. By this stage I should be jumping the toadstools of suffering and going straight to the next level. In reality I’m looking at my toes instead of planting churches. I’m not taking new ground – I’m crying out for help to stand.
The Christian life – my Christian life – does not look the way I imagined. I knew I needed help – but I thought I could do some of it myself. And I knew there’d be death at the start of it – but not every day. So. Either I’m thinking about this wrong – or I’m living a lie. The question is, which?
What I’m wrestling with is something other Christians have thought about too. Luther, for one. It’s the difference between a theology of glory and a theology of the cross.
A theology of glory sees suffering as a painful detour that we just need to move past. The cross is a means to an end: like Jesus giving us a leg up and leaving us to run the rest. We’re saved because Jesus zaps us and we know we’re saved because we struggle less. We can say with confidence, ‘I’m getting better all the time.’
This is lovely if you get zapped. But what if you don’t? What if you’re still struggling with issues that don’t seem to go away? What if instead of getting better, you feel more and more aware of your own mess? Suddenly what seemed to be good news becomes very bad news instead – because there’s a kingdom of shiny happy Christians and you’re not in it.
A theology of the cross is very different. The cross here is everything and not just as an unavoidable detour or a fix-it. Because this is where the action happens and this is where Jesus shows up.
A theology of the cross means that we don’t always get zapped. We struggle and yet that’s good, because Jesus is with us. It’s not about self-reliance; but neither is it the despair of misery for its own sake. It’s the hope we don’t expect. Strength that looks like weakness. Life that looks like death. A hero who DIES. And yet – this is The Plan. The cross is a picture of who God actually is and how He actually loves us. Through suffering. And dependence. And mess.
So when I wake up and I can’t do it I don’t despair. If Jesus is the God of the cross, then maybe this is the right place.
For more on theology of the cross, have a read HERE.