We’ve all heard the expression, “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” I think the same rule can be applied to prayer.
Many years ago, before I was a pastor, before I was married with children, I prayed that the Lord would teach me the Theology of the Cross. It was during my later college years and into my first couple years of seminary that I frequently found myself uttering this prayer. I knew that it was something I needed to learn. I knew it was something that was important. I had read much in books and journal articles about Luther’s Theologia Crucis, and I wanted to know it. To learn it. So I truly and honestly prayed that God would teach it to me.
Sometimes I wish that I had not been so fervent in this prayer. Because what I didn’t realize at the time was that one cannot learn the Theology of the Cross from books alone. It was not merely his reading of books that taught Luther to look at life through suffering and the cross, but his own experience of the cross in his life. His own suffering, terrors, and trials, his internal struggles and battles–these, finally, are what taught Luther the theology of the cross.
Suffice to say that God has answered my prayer, over and over again. In many and various ways, He has schooled me in the theology of the cross, but it has not been a free education. The tuition has been costly. I confess that I have not always borne well the crosses that God has laid on me. And for this I repent. But there is only one way to get the juice out of a fruit and that is to squeeze the hell out of it. So, I suppose the fruit that God has squeezed out of me is that my fervent prayer has now become, “Come, Lord, quickly.”
What makes the trials and afflictions of life bearable is the fact one day they will come to an end. One day, God will deliver us all from this vale of tears and sorrow, and take us to himself in heaven. And the pain and misery that was endured in this life will not be remembered any more. The thoughts that daily plague my mind will finally cease, and there will be unending joy. This is what gives me comfort in difficult times. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Christ suffered, and then He rose. Sorrow gave way to joy. Come, Lord, quickly.