This is a translation of a scriptural meditation from the Russian book, “Day by Day”:
Scripture: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matt: 16, 24)
"There is a poem called “Exchanging a cross”. It depicts a tired, exhausted woman, weary from the weight of her cross, and dreaming of the possibility of exchanging it for some other cross, in the certainty that any other one would be easier. She fell asleep, and a strange vision appeared to her in her sleep: she found herself among a multitude of crosses of various sizes and types, lying on the ground. She was attracted to one – it was small and decorated with precious stones, in a gold setting. “So”, she thought, “this cross I could carry without difficulty”. However, as soon as she picked it up, its weight began to press on her: the gold and precious stones were wonderful, but it was too heavy for her. There was another cross nearby, entwined with lovely flowers. “This, certainly, is the one meant for me!”, she exclaimed, and quickly picked it up. But underneath the lovely flowers there were thorns which pierced her, causing her pain. Finally, she came upon a simple, unadorned cross, distinguished neither by its refined form or opulent setting, on which only the word of love was drawn. She lifted it up and as she carried it she became convinced that this was the lightest one of all the ones that she had tried.
“And in the joyful radiance of heavenly light she recognized that it was her former cross, which she had disdained! In her frantic quest she found it, and it turned out to be the one most suited to her. Only the Lord knows what type of cross we need and what type we can accept. He judges it according to our strength. We cannot judge the difficulty of trials sent to our fellow man. Disadvantaged and poor, we look with envy on the rich, but maybe the gold and precious stones make their cross heavier. Another life seems to us to be flowering and of unmitigated happiness, but we don’t see the thorns hidden underneath the wonderful roses. So, if we could try all the numerous crosses sent by the Lord to suffering mankind, we would undoubtedly be convinced that we would not have the strength to carry any one of them except our own, which God in His love has chosen for us.”
Lewis expresses the same thought as the author of the above meditation in a letter to Mary Shelburne of Aug. 3, 1959, where he quotes Thomas a Kempis’s “Imitation of Christ”:
"I sympathize most deeply with you on the loss of Fr. Louis. But for good as well as for ill one never knows what is coming next. You remember the “Imitation” says ‘Bear your cross, for if you try to get rid of it you will probably find another and worse one’ ".
I think that Lewis’s words, “one never knows what is coming next”, certainly applies to our time. Let’s hope that the “for good” part will also arrive in the not too distant future (a vaccine?), but we must obviously ask for God’s help in any case.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)