“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;” Isaiah 61:1
Reading this verse used to fill me with strength and hope; it fueled my passion to follow the calling God had on my life. However, over time, this verse began to feel more like a curse than a blessing. When things because almost unbearable the following passage of scripture became my reality.
“’If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’.” Matthew 10:14-20
I became aware of the destructive things that your own fellow believers were more than willing to do to you; but I had forgotten two important parts of this passage, “…shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” and “do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time,”.
Instead of heeding the sound advice from Christ that is written right there in scripture I disobeyed both instructions. I stuck around too long and I didn’t wait for the Holy Spirit to guide me in what to say to those who made it their goal to attack and destroy.
When God has given you a calling to work and minister in certain environments it is not often easy. Our society has convinced us that anything that involves God will be smooth and easy, as if it were the only sign that you were in the right place doing the right thing.
“In the Vincentian Family, I had the opportunity to meet many missionaries (religious, ordained and lay) who were slandered in their missions; priests that had to leave their parishes due to the internal ecclesiastic [ordained] incomprehension or to the lack of understanding from their own parishioners whom they served; consecrated [ordained] forced to abandon their projects of service to the poor because ‘they were so effective in their service that they caused envy’; lay Vincentians who were called self-interested or corrupt and who had to leave their vocation. Many times we are misunderstood by the poor that we serve! We build their house and in the following week visit, we do not find them anymore, because they sold the house that took so much effort for us to build! Sometimes we feel that we are fighting with all our strength for the mission of service and total dedication to the Poor and that nobody understands us.”
Christ asks us to join him in carrying his cross. Carrying a big wooden torture device over our shoulders is not easy; it was never intended to be. Sometimes we are called to do something that is fun, exciting, and almost effortless; this might be a calling, but it is not the same as carrying a cross. Carrying a cross will always involve pain, hurt, decrease in strength, battling our weaknesses, and many other challenges to our emotional well being.
Does this mean that we will always be defeated in carrying our cross? Not at all. Why? Because God is the one who gives us strength to be able to be co-carriers of the cross alongside Jesus. Jesus is with us, his experience with the cross reminds us that in the end we will have overcome the cross; but until we depart this earth we will always have some type of cross to carry.
When your calling involves carrying the burden of the cross turn to God. Ask him to reveal to you when to dust off your sandals and carry on verses when to stay as a guest and servant. When the attackers come for you, pray, ask God for wisdom as to what to do next. Do you stay, do you go; and what do you say while you are in the midst of the mess. God always has an answer, it will be up to each of us to listen, trust, and follow.