Lift high the cross,
The love of Christ proclaim,
‘Til all the world,
Adore His sacred name.
In an age of disbelief and the general turning away from ancient truths, people seek to aggressively immerse themselves ever deeper into a hectic life of pleasures, thrills, money-making and sin. Under such circumstances, it is a divine irony that peace and hope have become more elusive than ever.
In my country, young people aged between 15-24 are statistically more likely to kill themselves in a suicide attempt than they are to die in a car accident. In fact, nearly twice as many young people committed suicide in 2012 than were killed in accidents. This should sound existential alarm bells up and down the nation. It is almost hard to believe that we could have arrived at a point in time where more young adults – at ages traditionally associated with optimism and energy – now die by their own hands, than are killed unintentionally on the road. Given these statistics, it is not surprising that a quarter of young Australians report being unhappy with their lives.
In poorer countries, people are more likely to resort to suicide as a means of escape. In wealthier countries, people are more likely to obtain prescription medication to try to control the sorrow, which is still there despite the most enlightened of social planning. The Netherlands, for instance, is usually cited as a liberal paradise with welfare laid on generously for all, yet the country consumes significant amounts of anti-depressants with about a million of its population reporting depression.
It was reported this week that there are more opioid prescriptions in the state of Tennessee than there are people. The increase in the abuse of drugs like methamphetamines and prescription painkillers would suggest that a great many people are seeking to medicate something in their lives.
Now, it is not my intention to try to link depression and drug use to people’s religious persuasions. There are some Christian writers that try to do that, and it is not helpful in my view. I know a number of faithful Christian people who have clinical depression and I would never wish to rub salt into the wounds by calling their faith into question. But I would assert that great numbers of the human race, in general, have yet to find true happiness, peace, and inner rest. Millions are miserable and broken. Every year, across the world, a million human beings kill themselves. This is a terrible statistic: about 3,000 people commit suicide per day, or 1 person every 40 seconds. For every successful suicide, there are 20 who attempt but fail.
In such an arena of misery, more than ever, people need the gospel. People need to hear that they are loved with a love incomprehensible. This is not a love that grants them everything they desire as if God were a magic genie in a lantern. But this is a love that is greater, more tender, more profound than has ever been known in history.
This is a love that motivated the Lord Jesus Christ to take upon himself the sins of the profoundly undeserving; to suffer for the unlovable; to be punished for evils committed enthusiastically by rebels who detest God’s lordship. This love is made visible in the cross of Calvary. There, our Lord was suspended between heaven and earth where, in six hours, he endured the hell of every person who comes believing. He endured this sorrow and degradation for us. For me, and for you, dear reader.
The cross is therefore meant to function as a bright and radiant beacon. It is meant to be the light on the hill, promising warmth and welcome to the weary traveller. It is meant to be the Evening Star shining in splendour in the darkness, to guide the ship on her treacherous voyage over the waters. The cross is the fountain of life, where the rivers of life and hope flow in a cooling stream. It is meant to mark not only a past event, but a current reality that may be freely experienced and known.
Jesus Christ does not promise us an easy life, neither does he promise us a life where we must labour for him for but a short time before being whisked away to paradise. Some of his faithful servants have lived long and difficult lives, fraught with much pain. Some of the most devoted disciples knew very little comfort: St. Paul, who was in and out of dungeons, suffered shipwreck, was beaten and persecuted for the sake of the Lord. And time would fail to speak of the countless martyrs and dying missionaries of the Lord Jesus Christ. We admire how the Lord made them strong to endure inner and outer traumas that would otherwise destroy both flesh and soul. And they drew their strength from his cross, and the love that it illumines for our dim minds.
Wherever you are; whatever your situation; whatever you may wrestle with – whether you are lonely, sad, miserable, wretched, worn out, depressed, or even driven to the verge of suicide by the relentless assaults of the devil on your psyche – you must remember that the cross stands firm and sure. It is firm because God is greater than you. His love and mercy exceeds your sins and your current condition. For if they did not, then you could argue that your wickedness is stronger than God’s goodness and grace, which is a dreadful blasphemy that God will never allow.
God’s insistence that Christ should have the (rightful) preeminence in all things means that his love is the greatest; his compassion is more than you can think or imagine; his power in your life beyond all telling.
So wherever you are, come to Christ! In your despair, in your loneliness, in your situation, come and know the comfort of the Lord. He will not fail you. The cross is lifted high, and it is lifted high for you, dear reader. For you.
“Come to me, you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest“.