When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

April 16, 2019
By Susan Preece, MB Kids Administrative Assistant

I have been practicing for singing in the Easter choir, which also includes music for the Good Friday Tenebrae service, which is described as:

Tenebrae (/ˈtɛnəbreɪ, -bri/—Latin for “darkness”)  – a religious service held during the three days preceding Easter, and characterized by gradual extinguishing of candles, and a “loud noise” taking place in total darkness near the end of the service.

The music gets intense, as it should be, to remind us of that dark day. This year, I have a new understanding of the words of the hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” written by Isaac Watts in 1707. He writes vividly about the crucifixion, and describes it as “sorrow and love flow mingled down.”

Jesus knew that the only way to accomplish what he had been called to do was to suffer immensely and die for our behalf. Extreme sadness is felt along with extreme passion and conviction.

I have dear friends who are battling health challenges and facing a difficult period of getting sicker, in hopes of ultimately getting better. Who would willingly choose a time of pain, sickness, possible complications, and long periods of feeling lousy? What if that were your best choice?

I feel both sorrow and love for my friends. I hate the suffering. The only thing that makes sense is if something good can come from it. And that is our hope in Jesus. He suffered for our sake, so something good, wondrous, even miraculous could happen to each of us. We are freed from the bondage of sin and forgiven so that we can live restored and whole.

For my friends, I pray that they are fully restored and that they endure the transitional stage with the hopefulness to come.

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” James 1:12 (The MSG)

Life itself can be a testing challenge. This year, Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection is my opportunity to “embrace the moment that changes my destiny.” I know a terrific book that talks all about this. It’s called “Pivot,” by Dr. Jody G. Ray.

I began the Lenten season with an expectant hope that God will work in me to make this year’s Easter celebration a new beginning for a new season in my life. I prepared with prayer, fasting, and meditation. I take great comfort in this wisdom from Dr. Ray:

“God is love; He is not the author of the evil in this world. God doesn’t make bad things happen, but God can use our worst moments to do great things in and through us. God is the Great Redeemer. God can take our pain and turn it into our gain.”

The ultimate bad thing happened when Jesus died on the cross. Sorrow and love flowed mingled down, and now that understanding is my pivot moment to change my destiny. Today, because of Jesus, I can.  

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  James 1:2-3

The best part of the Easter music is ending in the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. What a wonderful expression of praise and honor. What better way to embrace the victory of Jesus’ resurrection than to belt out with full conviction our praise, joy, and thanks.

What an honor it is to share the joy of Easter by singing the best music that proclaims our love and understanding of a gracious and loving God. But even better is the opportunity to move forward and live my best life because of Jesus, and invite others to do the same. Thanks be to God.