The great Russian writer, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, tells of a dark moment in his life when he felt all hope and reason for living were gone. As a prisoner in a Soviet prison camp, he worked twelve hours a day at hard labor. He wasn’t getting much to eat, and before too long, he had become very ill. In fact, the doctors at the camp told him that he would probably die very soon. One afternoon while shoveling sand in the blazing sun, Solzhenitsyn simply stopped working. He’d had enough. As he stopped, he realized that the guards would beat him severely, perhaps even kill him. Yet at that moment, nothing mattered to him anymore. He had no desire to keep living.
Within a few moments, however, Solzhenitsyn saw another prisoner moving quietly toward him. Cautiously, the man took his cane and drew a cross in the sand and then quickly erased it before the guards saw it. “In that brief moment,” says Solzhenitsyn, “all the hope of the gospel poured into my soul.” Looking at those two lines drawn on the ground for merely a few seconds gave him strength and courage to endure that difficult day. The hope found in the cross of Jesus Christ allowed his soul to not only survive, but thrive through the many more hard months of imprisonment that would follow.
Why was such a simple symbol such a great inspiration to this brilliant man? Because by God’s grace, Alexander Solzhenitsyn had come to understand what the death of Jesus Christ meant for his life. Though almost 2000 years had passed, Solzhenitsyn knew that the cross—Jesus suffering and dying in his place—provided a reason to live each day with purpose and hope.
I am afraid that just as street lights often obscure the brilliance of the stars on a clear night, our comfortable surroundings prevent us from seeing the meaning of the cross as clearly as Solzhenitsyn did that day in the Soviet prison. Most folks realize that “Good Friday” is the day we commemorate the death of Jesus, but many do not grasp its significance. We need to remember that because Jesus Christ has died on the cross, those who embrace Him as Lord and Savior are given a whole new perspective on life. Because of the cross, guilt is replaced by forgiveness, slavery to sin and selfishness is replaced by a freedom to follow the Lord and love other people, emptiness and despair are replaced by meaning and purpose, and the fear of death is replaced by the hope of eternal life.
Friend, no matter what circumstances you are facing in life, the cross of Jesus Christ offers great hope to you. Anything else to which you cling will provide only temporary and illusionary hope. May the Lord enable each of us to truly turn to Jesus Christ and find true hope in His death and resurrection.
Yours, thankful for the hope I find in the cross,
Pastor Dan Erickson