“They compelled this man [Simon of Cyrene] to carry his cross.”
– Matthew 27:32
Psychologists have shown us that willpower is a fairly weak force.
This is why relying on our ability to just ‘push through’ so often fails. It’s not that we don’t want the outcome, it’s that we’re pushing a square peg through a round hole, and there’s only so much we can do.
(This is something I talked about at length in my first book on spiritual disciplines.)
Instead, the solution is to recondition ourselves to automatically do the thing we’re trying to do. To build the right neural pathways.
This, in common language, is called a habit: an action that is both expected and in harmony with the rest of ourselves.
Consider the scene: Jesus’ cross was probably 30 or 40 pounds. Not light, but hardly something too heavy for a grown man to carry.
Yet, they’d beaten him so badly, he couldn’t even do that.
What is so interesting about this is what is still to come. Still, the forgiveness. Still, as Isaiah wrote, he goes silently like a lamb to slaughter. And still, ultimately (and voluntarily), Jesus takes our place.
Putting aside how amazing any of those points are, Jesus was able to do this, not because he muscled through it. His body was moment by moment failing.
No, he was able to do it because he was in harmony with the father. Despite his crushed body, his spirit was as strong as ever. And it moved him forward.