Here is a graphic that our pastor, Rev. James Douthwaite, at St. Athanasius Lutheran Church in Vienna, Virginia, uses to explain how we should always factor in the Cross when we consider our relationship to God and His relationship to us. (A parishioner made this visual image to illustrate what our pastor had been teaching.)
So, in God’s relationship to us, we might wonder, “Am I really saved?” “Am I of the elect?” “Is God angry with me?” “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” In each case, if we leave out the Cross, questions like these can drive us to despair or insanity. But consider them in light of the Cross–of Christ’s intercession, His atonement, and His suffering for us–and the paradigm shifts. I am saved because Christ paid my penalty. I am elect in the Cross where God placed my sins. God’s anger is appeased in the death of His Son. God does not just look down in detachment at the sufferings of the world; rather, He entered that world in His incarnation in Christ and Himself suffered on the Cross, where He also bore MY afflictions.
In our relationship to God: “Does God hear my prayers?” “What do I need to do to satisfy God?” “I’m not worthy of God’s love.” God hears us through our Intercessor Jesus who has won perfect access for us to the Father through His death and resurrection. God is already satisfied because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. We are not worthy, but Christ is worthy, and because of the Cross His worthiness is imputed to us.
Again, end runs around the Cross lead to doubt and torment, but considering God through the lens of the Cross, and understanding that God considers us through the lens of the Cross makes all the difference.