When Times Are Tough, Learn to Love Your Cross
“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
We may sometimes be tempted to look at historic times like these and despair over our suffering. Then, we learn about or meet someone in a difficult circumstance who is entirely filled with the joy that only comes from loving the Lord God.
I recently spoke with Thérèse Williams, and was tremendously captivated by the story of her journey with the Lord. I asked Thérèse only two questions, but her responses thoroughly encapsulate how she has embraced her cross and grown closer to the Lord Jesus throughout her life, as she wants to encourage others to do.
I recommend that you get a copy of Thérèse's book Love Your Cross: How Suffering Becomes Sacrifice (TAN Books, 2019), and read it during this difficult Lent, bearing in mind the book’s heartening description: “Love Your Cross gives a voice and a faith to the radical claim that suffering is an opportunity to grow closer to God.” The following is the transcript of the interview, in which you cannot help but learn from Thérèse about the value and dignity of every single human life, since we are all made in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).
What inspired you to write Love Your Cross: How Suffering Became Sacrifice?
What inspired me was a priest friend of mine, my spiritual director, who said to me that my story could help people who are contemplating suicide. He ministers to people who are patients at the psychiatric ward at the hospital in Concord, New Hampshire. He said that the no. 1 cause of suicide is that people do not believe in God anymore. Someone like me could show them that there is a God, that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally, and he could bring hope to those who are in despair. For me, hearing Fr. Maurice say that to me was a shock, because I didn't really feel that I had anything to say, and I was not in the mindset that I would write a book. However, he said to me that this was a very important thing that I must do. So, the second time that he told me this, I looked at him, and I saw in him the face of God speaking to me. So, I figured that if I didn't take his advice, that would be like not listening to God, and not listening to God is trouble in the end. So, I said okay.
Writing the book was a journey in itself, and it was not easy for me. It was, and continues to be, a purging: when you truly want to do God’s work, you have to empty yourself and let God fill you with all of his graces, so that you can truly preach the message that he wants you to preach. So, the book continues to be a kind of purging. It’s great, and I love it, but at the same time, it's painful. As John the Baptist said about Jesus, “he must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30). Many people say, “I love the book — it’s so inspirational,” but at the same time, I'm still living this life. It's not anything spectacular or extraordinary for me. It's just what God wants me to be.
What do you hope for readers of Love Your Cross? What should be their takeaway?
I hope that they can take away from it the fact that there is no cross that they cannot carry, if they ask Jesus — when it’s really tough — to carry the cross with them. Ask Jesus to carry it with you, and it will get lighter. It may not get easier in an instant, but it will get lighter if you continually ask for the grace and the companionship of Jesus while you’re carrying your cross.