The Cross vs. The Ladder

I can do all things…

I can do all things…

I have whispered these words to myself. I have held them close and allowed them to blanket me. I can do all things. Me. He is somehow not in the equation.

If I just read enough. If I just devote myself enough to His teachings. If I just push through one more time, then…then I can do. I can accomplish. I can succeed.

I look to the cross and see the work He has done, but I am working, too–striving, pushing, pulling. I can look to the cross, except as I squint my eyes under the pressure of succeeding, as I furrow my brow under the weight I have placed on my own back, the cross looks less and less like a cross. It resembles something quite different…

His cross becomes my ladder.

I strain and I push harder to grasp onto each wrung and pull myself upward. I can do all things…

I slip. I fall. I catch myself again and start all over. His words are so gracious and kind and He whispers softly to me…

Nicole, My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Light and easy. Not heavy and difficult. Not painful and purposeless.

I want so badly to stop climbing. I desperately want to just rest at His feet, touch the hem of His garment, allow Him to meet my need, but I can’t. Or I don’t. Or I won’t.

I reason and convince myself that I am still doing His will. I am still performing as I should. I am not sinning. I am striving.

Yet, as my arms grow weary from climbing, as the length of the ladder stretches higher and higher above me, I begin to see the futility in my endeavor.

I see the foolishness in my efforts. I am exhausted. I am wretched. I can climb no longer…and I weep.

I weep over the time lost being in His presence for the substitution of trying to be.

I weep for my sin, not because I was exposed, but because I have once again forgotten my Lord.

And as the tears fall, and my vision is clouded, I look up once again. Through my misty eyes, my ladder no longer resembles a ladder, but begins to take on its original shape…

Christ’s cross.

I focus on the figure. The shape that held Him there. My sin that placed Him there…

…and I repent.

I repent for…

striving versus submitting…

climbing versus clinging to Him…

seeking success versus practicing surrender…

desiring achievement versus acknowledging the One True God.

I climb down from my ladder and look to His cross. I hear those familiar words: “I can do all things…through Him who strengthens me.” Through Him. Him. He alone.

For what do you strive versus submit to Him? Personally, what causes His cross to resemble your ladder? What heavy burden do you carry that you know Jesus wants to take?

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33 thoughts on “The Cross vs. The Ladder”

  1. Nicole,

    You said:
    “I weep over the time lost being in His presence for the substitution of trying to be.”

    That was Solid Gold dancing right there. Spot-on.

    You ended with asking this:
    “For what do you strive versus submit to Him? Personally, what causes His cross to resemble your ladder? What heavy burden do you carry that you know Jesus wants to take?”

    Good questions. For myself, however, I am drawing a blank. I have none of these concerns. As a son, my Father has replaced these concerns with the fullness of His
    New Covenant.

    Good questions, though. I am looking forward to how folks will answer.

    1. Donald,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m glad to know you don’t have any of these concerns. Although, the Christian life is not the promise of a burden-free life. He promises us Himself and His freedom, but not exemption from the pain of life or the struggles we may encounter. By “burden” I wasn’t necessarily referring to sin, so much as the struggles of life.

      Yet, if none of that applies to you, again, I am thankful for you to be experiencing such peace and joy. Blessings to you!

  2. Nicole,

    This reads more like a poem, as opposed to the conversation-esque posts that you normally do. I really enjoyed the journey you took us through.

    For me, I’m constantly trying to make the “right” choice in terms of where my path is taking me for the next season, and though I’ve improved in being dependent on God, it always seems to be that I have to listen to a million different opinions, process all my options, fail at finding an option that stands out, and finally brokenly come to God. And then He shows me where to go. Things line up. There’s a sense of purpose in my direction. And I wonder what I was worried about.

    Essentially, getting out of the way of God.

    Obviously, there is still struggles even after things are figured out and moving in the direction God wants me to go, but there’s definitely more peace surrounding everything I’m doing.

  3. Good post, as always.

    I was reminded of John 1:43-51 where Jesus references himself as Jacob’s ladder – that through his death (and resurrection), he becomes the connection between us and God. We are transformed from Jacobs (deceivers) into Israels (wrestlers with God).

    Good stuff!

  4. what a great flow to this post, Nicole.

    I’m often resigned to the fact that I’m going to fail. The reasons for this are many – but I need to just give that to him. One of my greatest struggles….

    1. Justin,
      I can relate to that–the surrender to thoughts of failure versus surrender to His freedom. I think, in the back of my mind, I secretly believe He doesn’t actually have my best in mind.

      But then I realize that He does not measure success as the world does. He is not concerned with achievement or renown. His fame must be my priority.

      Thanks for sharing Justin.

      1. In the back of my mind, secretly believing He doesn’t actually have my best in mind… I TOTALLY know what you mean!! It requires such a complete and total trust, doesn’t it? My HEAD knows that He does have my best in mind, but knowing & believing it in my HEART? That’s a whole different kettle of fish!

        1. Yes! Believing it in your heart versus knowing it in your head. That is the struggle.

          Crazy thing for me is, I believe God really has the best for everyone else. I can preach that message all day long…but when it comes to me, I doubt His goodness.

          It’s the needed transfer of faith–the faith I have for others to be transferred to myself.

      2. Such a great point, Nicole. He is not concerned with achievement or renown. In the world, not of the world. In the world, not of the world…..

  5. Awesome, post Nicole! This is beautiful. My entire life I have been on the ladder and it has only been lately (after much time in the wilderness) that I have been able to find comfort in surrender. Many of my problems are still here, but so is He! I am probably struggling the most with letting HIM fix my family, and all I feel like He wants me to do is serve them and trust Him. Also self protection, I feel like I can watch my back better than He can! Insane I know, I love Jesus and am finding that most miracles take time and during that time I am falling more and more head over heels for Him!

    1. Kristin,
      I can so relate to the family thing. Mine is broken and without Christ. Trusting Him with my family and the outcome has been one the most difficult parts of my walk with the Lord.

      And I totally know too what it is to feel like you can watch out for yourself better than He can.

      It’s irrational and wrong, but we slip into it. I was complaining once about God doing or not doing something and someone ask me point blank “Has God ever let you down?”

      I had to pause. No, He hadn’t and He hasn’t and He never will.

      I try and remind myself of that question when I try to slip into self-protection mode.

      I love too what you said “most miracles take time” and He has so much love to show us in the meantime.

  6. I love this post Nicole. It’s so me! It seems to be a constant struggle for me. I’m such a control freak, and feel like I have to fight for my independence and do everything myself, forgetting the freedom and lightness that is found in giving it all to God.

    So I know in my head that I SHOULD give it all to God and let Him take the burden. But how to do that, practically? That’s a day-by-day struggle for me. I’m not sure how to but I know that I want to. And I’m trusting that God will walk with me through it, and help me to learn.

    1. Rachel,
      Practically, I’m still figuring it out too. I think of taking up our cross daily and following Him. The choice to obey and surrender is a daily–moment by moment–choice. We must continually seek surrender.

      I know too, that the more I abide in Him, visit with Him, come to rest in the person of Christ, the lighter my burdens. It is not about doing for Him or getting something from Him, but rather going to Him because of who He is. He alone is worthy. We need no other reason…

  7. Simply beautiful. There are so many things I try to take on myself–you know–rather than submit. It’s not that I do it intentionally, so much as I forget to come to Christ *daily* with *everything*. He wants all of us, and the only way He gets that is if we bring all our crap, too. Praise Him for His faithfulness, patience, and grace.

  8. Wow, thank you. Your internal dialogue sounds remarkably similar to my own at times.

    I got this. I got this. Come on, just a bit further.

    I’m a proactive person. I find things that need fixing, and I fix them. I get things done. And then I fail- which gives me more things to get done. After going through this samsaric hell I finally remember that this wasn’t what God has saved me to.

    Who will save me from this body of sin and death? Praise be to Christ who GIVES me the victory. It is for freedom that we have been set free.

    1. My husband is proactive. he likes to attack things and move on to the next thing. You are so right, God did not save us to “do” or to “strive.”

      His freedom is reassuring and removes from us the need to perform or fix things. Amen!

  9. As I wrote about in a recent post at my blog, I worked hard at figuring out what to do during my divorce and jobless-ness. I applied everywhere, to no avail. I was without options, and running low on hope. I gave up trying, and told God that He needed to take care of it, because I was obviously doing something terribly wrong. By the end of the week, I had a job.

    This school year, my girl and I tried terribly to find a job at an international school somewhere in the world. Anywhere but here in the UAE–we were done with it, finished, khalas! Nothing. Time and time again, jobs slipped out from our fingers, or we were turned down summarily. I started to pray that God would guide us, and show us what to do. Two job offers came, and we accepted the one here in the UAE. In the end, I think God was telling us He still wanted us here for some reason, and He was waiting for us to listen to Him.

    Perhaps in my own way I know about climbing vs. resting. Perhaps I’ve seen some of that same cross. Perhaps those words of “my burden is light” need to sink into my heart.

    Let it be so.


    1. I can so appreciate your sentiment Josh–the need to stop climbing, but to just rest in Him. You did surrender and gave Him control. You acknowledged your need and He met it.

  10. Nicole, I love the different(poetic) style of this post. I certainly struggle with this all the time, though I know how good it feels to let Him carry my burdens. Just last week I was feeling angry and tense and literally as soon as I gave it to Him, I felt the tension release. I love His power in those situations.

  11. Striving sucks. I’ve struggled with this for a long time. I’m finally coming to a place of resting in my identity as His son. I realize that before I do anything, He is already pleased. No amount of effort will change that. I’m already who He says I am. I just have to believe it. I don’t have to climb a rung to get higher, I just have to sit and repent (or change my mind) about how I view myself.

    I’m really no good to anyone else until I wrap my mind around this truth. You can’t give what you don’t have.

  12. Beautiful and well timed. This post is a must read for anyone, but especially for leaders – of home, of business, of ministry, of others. This is personally inspirational to me today. Thank you!

  13. Love the way this reads Nicole, and it reminds me of the Take 6 rendition of “Come unto me, all ye that labor.” So smooth, and soulful.

    As for your questions, I am learning more about submitting what I try to strive for, and He’s shown me more and more of what He has in store, and it’s awesome.

    Heavy Burden’s? Well, I’m 3 years away from our first teenage girl…Jesus, take the wheel? lol

    1. Oh man, teenage girl years approaching…

      It can be so brutal. I survived and I didn’t have a Godly dad praying for me and building me up.

      She has that going for her and that alone will make all the difference.

  14. I have a hard time resting in my identity as a child of God mainly because of the amount of times I’ve been rejected by people who profess Christ. The ones who run when I’m most in need and I find myself alone. I know I shouldn’t project the failures of God’s people upon Him but sometimes it’s just hard.

    1. Jason,

      Please know that I am so very sorry that you have been hurt and rejected by people who claim to profess Christ.

      It breaks my heart, truly. I know too that it breaks God’s heart. Those people sinned against you and while it doesn’t help now, they will stand before the Lord for their actions.

      It can be so hard to separate the harm others conflict upon us, from God Himself. I have been there.

      The fathers in my life let me down repeatedly. My instinct is to say, “well, God must be the same way.” But I hold fast to His word that He is a good Father who gives good gifts to His children, even if I have to convince myself it is true.

      Please know I will be praying for your spirit to find healing, wholeness, and reconciliation from the wrongs that have been done to you.

      Thank you for sharing here.


  15. My husband found your blog this weekend, and I am certainly thankful we were in a place where he could take the time to tell me about it. I am really enjoying your ability to say a lot of what I think, but am afraid to say! i particularly enjoyed this post. My default setting is striving. So thankful for the reminder today.

    1. Stacy,
      I’m so blessed to know you were encouraged! Thank you for sharing that with me. My “default” is striving, as well. God is so faithful at refocusing us…back on the cross.


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