My Burdens Gladly Bearing

Sometimes you can listen to a song you’ve heard a thousand times, and suddenly feel like it’s brand new. I found this recently with the hymn How Great Thou Art. It’s so familiar that I sing it in the shower, and it comes to mind when I’m looking over an amazing mountaintop view or gazing up at the stars.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze

But when it came on in my car the other day I heard new meaning in this stanza:

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

The word “gladly” brought me to tears. It’s always been there, but it’s like I’d never really thought about it before. I hadn’t stopped to consider Jesus’ joy in the Cross. He did not go to his death resenting me. And when I continue to sin, Jesus is not rolling his eyes at how hopeless I am.

He walked to the Cross with great dread—that’s clear from his prayers in Gethsemane—but there was joy too. He prayed: “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus came into the world to save his people, and he was willing to endure unimaginable pain to see that purpose through. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to look to Jesus, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross”. That joy was bringing his lost and helpless people into an eternal relationship with his Father.

Jesus himself tells us of God’s joy when one of his lost sheep returns to him (Matthew 18:10–14). On the Cross, Jesus reconciled all his people in one moment. He struck the death blow on death itself. How great was the rejoicing in heaven on that day! When Jesus rose again, he entered into the joy of ruling at God’s right hand. He gladly died for me, and he will gladly receive me back when I turn to him in repentance.

I should look at Jesus’ joyful death for me with even more wonder than I do the mountain view or dazzling stars. The hymn begins with:

O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

But this is only a prelude to the ultimate joy. When I look upon the Cross, where my Saviour died for me, I scarce can take it in. I find joy that takes my breath away—as it did to Jesus. He gladly died for me. That changes everything. Because of this glorious truth, I can look forward with eager joy to the final day:

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation
And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart
Then I shall bow, in humble adoration
And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

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