Please join me in welcoming today author Ellen Chaksil to the Sharing the Joy Event.
Shouldering the Cross at Christmas
by Ellen Chaksil
With the approach of Christmas, I confided a terrible, heartbreaking suspicion to my cousin, Ann. My son David had been staying with me temporarily, and he was planning to once more get an apartment of his own. I had undertaken the chore of helping clear out some of his things. In the process of doing so, I had come across an abundance of pills in one of his bureau drawers. Since it was not the first time I had found them, I really became alarmed, thinking, Could he possibly be addicted to those pills?
“Oh, come on!” Ann interrupted. “I don’t think so. You did say they’re prescription drugs. Maybe that old football injury is kicking up. Then, too, he’s had a few minor accidents since then, so he might need them for pain.”
After a bit more discussion, I was ashamed of myself for having shared that ugly suspicion with Ann. When she got up to leave, I felt even worse that I had burdened her, for I could see that she was becoming more and more incapacitated by her rheumatoid arthritis, yet I marveled at how she almost never complained or made reference to her pain.
After Ann left, I prayed, asking the Lord to give her the strength she needed to cope; especially with the Christmas season upon us, there was so much to do. I also petitioned the Lord, asking Him to protect David. I so hoped Ann was right in her assessment, that he couldn’t be addicted to those pain pills, yet I had my doubts, as for some time I had known that all was not right in his life.
During the Christmas holidays, I invited Ann to dinner. When we finished eating, we retired to the living room and sat before the blazing fire in the fireplace. At first its warmth and charm failed to alter her sad mood. With folded arms, appearing totally dejected, she stared down at her misshapen feet and sounded even unhappier, saying, “Ellen, thanks for inviting me over; if you hadn’t called I would probably be lying down, hoping I could fall asleep. It seems that’s all I want to do anymore.”
In an effort to change her mood, I responded, “Ann, please don’t talk that way; God had given you a beautiful family and they desperately need you.”
“Oh, come on, Ellen,” she answered, releasing a well of tears. “Just take a good look at me.” Almost inaudibly she added, “Sometimes, even though I know better, I feel God doesn’t even exist. Or if He does, He has forgotten all about me.”
Hearing her, I began to understand her quiet demeanor; she had kept all that pain buried within herself.
I responded immediately. “Ann, I know how drastically your life has changed because of this illness, but you can’t just give up on life or on God. With and in Him you can find the peace and comfort you need to carry on.” A shiver of determination went through my body as I reached for my Bible. “You may not be up to it right now,” I said. “But let’s see if the Lord has a Word for us, one to lift us up.”
She gave no sign of either objection or agreement, so I simply went ahead and randomly opened the Bible. My eyes fell upon Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 16; in briefly scanning it, I considered it a most appropriate passage for us in that moment in time.
Before I began reading, I silently thanked God, knowing the scripture had opened to that exact page only through the guidance of His Holy Spirit:
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow Me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lost it; but anyone who loses his life for My sake will find it. What then will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life?”
Reading from the accompanying reference notes, I added, “Ann, here we read that the word ‘life’ means the life of our soul as well as that of our person. Jesus is telling us that even if we possess the entire world, we are not able to buy an extra second of life on Earth. And that’s okay, because what we must be concerned about is the life of our soul, our spirit, because it lives on after physical death. And we cannot risk the loss of our soul by turning away from God.”
“In that Scripture reading, Jesus is telling us to accept our burden, to carry our cross, whatever it might be. He did, after all, lay out the pattern for us; we need only follow in His Way and we will find the strength we need to persevere.”
I could see the tears running down Ann’s cheeks and I handed her a tissue to dry her eyes. I also needed one for myself. It grieved me to see my beloved cousin suffering so much. After a few moments had passed, I said, “Ann, I know it’s difficult to accept this hope-filled message, especially when you are suffering as much as you are, but remember Jesus promised that when we accept and carry our cross, it will be lightened. C’mon, what do you say? Let’s continue getting together to pray, read, and learn about the Way He offers.”
I was so pleased when I saw her nod her head in agreement.
In the following months, I was even happier as I watched an almost miraculous change take place in Ann. While her physical condition continued to worsen, she no longer appeared to be depressed. Once again we could see her beautiful dimples, because she smiled more often.
Visit Ellen’s blog at: catholiccharismaticprophecies.blogspot.com
Visit Ellen’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000344651305&ref=name
I would like to thank Ellen and Nicole at Tribute Books for this wonderful guest post.