Crosses are crosses. They can be pretty when they are made of diamonds or even cut glass. We like to wear them on our bodies, decorate our walls with them and consider the great price Jesus paid for our salvation with the cross.
Jesus told us crosses are to be taken up, not just admired or made into beautiful pieces of art. In Luke 9:23 He specifies what we are to do with crosses: “Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Crosses are for taking up.
You don’t get to choose the cross that Jesus asks you to take up. There are no malls for shopping for a favorite or best-fitting cross. The cross is different for each of us. It can be depression, difficult marriage, infertility, cancer, rebellious children, and financial ruin—the list is endless. Though the crosses vary, the instructions for any who wish to follow Christ and be His disciple are the same—we are told to take up the cross God presents to us.
Taking up our cross is actually acceptance. We do not take up the cross until we move beyond our hatred of the cross, rejection, opposing, blaming, avoiding, and pitying ourselves. Until we take up our cross through acceptance, we will not find the peace that passes understanding.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to love our cross or repress the fact that it is painful and hard to carry. He knows taking up our cross is unnatural and requires supernatural spiritual strength to accomplish. In fact before you are even able to take up your cross, it is mandatory that you deny yourself.
You must deny your natural instincts to defend, protect and rely on what you can see. Crosses are scary, uncharted, and dangerous. They cause you to defend yourself in a supernatural way. You defend yourself by acceptance, believing that you are not alone, and hope that God can redeem the world through the cross you bear. It’s actually a three step process.
- Deny self
- Take up your cross
- Follow Jesus
The path to taking up your cross begins with denying yourself—you have to do that because crosses come in God-sized problems and are impossible to take up without surrendering your faith to Christ. Sometimes a cross seems forced upon you, but you have a choice to take it up through acceptance or to fight it off though self-reliance. I don’t recommend the latter because when you take up your cross through acceptance, you experience the joy of being united with Christ by following His actions. He didn’t find His cross bearable without acceptance of God’s goodness through the horror and humiliation of the cross. Aren’t you glad He took up His cross? I wonder what God’s purposes are through the cross He is asking you to take up.