If it Makes You Happy
From time to time in the past I have been involved in evangelistic ministry throughout the state of Utah. One tool that God has given me to proclaim His word is a cross. It is a 50 pound, 12 foot tall cross made of 4x4ís with wagon wheels mounted on the bottom. I carry the cross down the road and God draws people to it, creating opportunities to share Christ.
I knew that God was speaking to me about carrying the cross around Salt Lake City as an act of spiritual warfare. This was to take place at night so as not to attract a lot of attention to myself. I had been praying about which night I was to go, but had not received an answer. Suddenly at 9:30 on a Friday night , God said, "Go now." I gathered some food, water and a small handful of tracts. My wife and I prayed, and I was on my way.
Neither of us gave much thought to the fact that the farthest I had ever carried the cross unassisted was 8 miles, and I was in much better physical shape then. My wife suggested I put a quarter in my pocket, and told me she would keep the phone next to the bed, just in case. Neither of us thought that I would actually have to call. God had told me to carry the cross around the city, so I would. At 11:15 I parked my car at the starting point and began walking an 18 mile route around the city.
During the first mile I began to feel the familiar aches and pains of carrying the cross. During the second mile the cross "settled in" on my shoulder. I was feeling as much pain as I would for a while and I was getting used to it. The third mile was all uphill. It was a slow, strenuous walk. On the fourth mile I got my "second wind." My pace was good. My feet were surprisingly free of pain. It was a beautiful, clear, warm summer night. The occasional jeering I have grown so accustomed to simply brought on an awareness of the presence of God walking with me. My spirit was at peace and it was wonderful.
At about 6 miles a young couple, John and Carolyn, pulled their car over and asked what I was doing. This was not an evangelistic outreach, but an act of spiritual warfare, so I wasnít prepared to answer that question. How do you describe this sort of thing to somebody who is not a follower of Jesus? I began to talk to them about following Jesus and how God will speak to you and ask you to do things for Him. This was one of those things. Sensing the joy I was feeling, John responded, "Well, if it makes you happy..."
"You donít do this sort of thing because it makes you happy," I replied, "You do it because itís right."
If only I could have talked to them four hours later!
At about 10 miles I was walking down a steep incline when a sharp pain shot through my right knee, making it difficult to walk. I stopped and set the cross down. I prayed, "Lord, you have called me to walk this cross around the city. My knee hurts. If you want me to continue, you will have to carry me. Speak to me through my knee." As I shouldered the cross and started walking, the pain diminished.
At 12 miles I was so hungry that it was affecting my strength. I had been putting off eating, not wanting either to take the time, or to walk with my stomach full of food. I stopped to eat, but not so much that my stomach would cramp as I walked. During the rest, my knee stiffened up. Again I prayed. Again the pain left my knee.
I hadnít eaten enough to bring back my strength. I was exhausted. The lack of sleep was catching up with me. Every curb I had to pull the cross over became a struggle. I was stumbling over rough spots in the road. It was becoming more difficult to keep the cross upright and on my shoulder. My knee would knot up from time to time. I passed a business and spotted a clock through a window. It was 5:00 AM, the time that I had hoped to be finished. I still had three and a half miles to go. My pace had dropped off to about half my normal speed. At the rate I was going I had at least two hours left to walk, and my pace was slowing as I went. If I rested, my knee would stiffen up. If I walked, I became more fatigued. I finally laid the cross down and prayed about what I should do. I sensed a release from the task of carrying the cross for the night.
When I stood up, I was in terrible pain. My knee had stiffened to the point that I could not bend my leg. I would have to continue walking until I found a phone. I didnít have the strength to take the cross with me, so I left the cross and limped down the road. After 3/4 of a mile of dragging my right foot, I finally found a phone. It was 5:20 in the morning when I called my wife and asked her to pick me up.
Exhausted, I slumped onto a bus stop bench where I fought sleep until my wife arrived. I couldnít find a comfortable position for my swollen knee. I was dizzy from hunger. The pain in my shoulder, chaffed and bruised by the weight of the cross, made movement of my right arm difficult. A breeze began to blow through my sweat-soaked shirt and I shivered uncontrollably. Besides all of this, I had been stopped short of attaining my goal for the night. I thought back to the conversation I had had with John and Carolyn, "If it makes you happy..." Although I was able to rest in the peace that I was in Godís will, this was not a particularly happy moment.
Not everyone is called of God to the same type of ministry He has called me to, but all of us are called to carry a cross. "If any man come after me," Jesus said, "let him deny himself, take up his cross every day and follow me." We have not been called to a life of happiness, but to a life of self-sacrifice. The cross is an instrument of death. We cannot live for Christ until we are dead to ourselves. We, as individuals who name the name of Christ, need to ask ourselves, do we follow Jesus because it makes us happy or because itís right?