Have you ever been thankful for what you don’t have?
For what you didn’t get?
For the times God said no to your request?
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how thankful I am for…nothing. Yes, you read that correctly. For what I don’t have.
It’s a feeling that’s been building for several years. My heart aches for those whose burdens feel overwhelming. And I confess there are times when my own burdens feels overwhelming. But then I heard a story—while fiction—that reminds me that even when someone else appears to have it easier than I do, appearances are often deceiving.
A man tells Jesus that he wants to trade his cross for a better one. “I see the crosses others are carrying and theirs are much more bearable than mine. “Why does my cross have to be so cumbersome and heavy? Other people carry their cross with ease and mine is hindering my daily life.”
Jesus leads the man to a room full of crosses. Some are large and others are small. The man is instructed to put down his cross and select a new cross. The only stipulation was that once he made his selection he could never complain or exchange his cross again. He searches for hours on end. The big crosses were just as he assumed: very large and very heavy. He knew there was no way he could ever carry those crosses. The smaller crosses were imbedded with thorns that would painfully stick the shoulder or back of the carrier. Others were oddly shaped and rubbed the neck raw.
Finally the man came upon a cross that was perfect for him. Not too big but not too little. There were no sharp prodding objects and it rested perfectly on his shoulder so it would not irritate him as he carried it.
He cried out, “Here it is, Lord.”
“Are you sure?” Jesus asked. “Remember, there are no trades or exchanges and no more complaining about your cross.”
The man replied, “I’m sure. This is the perfect cross for me.”
And Jesus answered, “My child, that’s the cross you carried in with you today.”
Which leads us to contentment. Am I content, regardless of my circumstances? The apostle Paul understood the importance of contentment, but that understanding did not come naturally. He wrote:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV).
Paul had to learn it… and so do we I.
How are you learning to be content? To be thankful for what you don’t have?