Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bear the burden.

A life lesson from some ants.

"Then he said to them all: 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.'" (Luke 9:23-24)

We often mistake a verse in 1 Corinthians to read "God won't give you anything you can't handle." In actuality, 1 Corinthians 10:13 reads, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." This verse is critical, for it promises protection and strength, but we must not leave out the word temptation. Because sometimes God does give us more than we can bear--burdens too great for us to carry alone. And He does it on purpose.

Consider this colony of ants. Their observable habitat, amidst a grassy patch at the base of a tree, is about 2 feet in diameter. From the openings of several holes in the ground, tiny black bodies rush in and out, carrying food, digging tunnels, and carrying away bodies of dead comrades. They are ceaseless in their work, blending in to their community with identities undistinguishable from one another. According to biologists at Arizona State University an ant can carry 10-50 times their weight due to muscle structure. Thus, spotting an ant carting a full leaf or even another, larger ant is not unusual. They are built to bear a burden.

I remember learning about ants' carrying capacity in elementary school. The idea was unfathomable to me; even carrying a gallon of milk seemed exhausting to my tiny arms. But from a young age I have also learned that God does place burdens in our life that exceed our strength, forcing us to quit relying on our own abilities. By nature, humans look to pride not only as an attribute but an essential quality for survival. We view obstacles as opportunities for self-pity, not submission. We throw our fists to the heavens, when the LORD takes things from our lives that were never ours. We ask, "WHY!?"

A few nights ago I came across a quote from Philip Yancey I wrote down a few years ago: "Maybe sometimes God keeps us in the dark about 'why' not so much because He wants to keep us in the dark, as because He knows that we are incapable of absorbing so much light." The cross we are to take up is not a bag of blessings but the nails of suffering that allow us to identify with our Savior. The early Church fathers prayed for long deaths, not silent, quick ones, that they may boast in their sufferings. Crosses test our faithfulness, but the burden we bear is not carried without the supernatural power of grace. Ask and it will be given. You aren't meant to do it alone.

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