Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) I’ve always thought the wording sounded instructive – as though Jesus were saying, “Come on. Go get a cross and let’s go!” World Magazine’s Gene Edward Veith once suggested that self-chosen crosses are not crosses. He pointed out the difference between manufactured suffering such as David Blaine’s underwater, breath-holding-type stunts, and real people actually suffering, such as the miners who have been trapped underground.
So maybe Jesus wasn’t saying go get a cross. It’s not a matter of looking around and trying to decide which cross you’ll try next. Maybe Jesus was saying, “Take up your cross. The one you’ve already been carrying for so long. The one with your name on it, the one you try to hide from your friends and cry out against from the lonely dark in the middle of the night.” And maybe your cross is that you’re still single. Or childless. Or addicted. Or you struggle with believing. Or a million other back-breaking, exhausting, unfair and senseless things.
Dr. Veith said, “The hard times that can build up our faith are precisely those things that we do NOT choose, that happen AGAINST our will.” Faith-building usually isn’t fun. But in the 33 verses preceding “take up your cross,” Jesus feeds 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread, reminds the disciples about the 5,000 He fed with five loaves, and heals a blind man. He can absolutely meet my every need. But He asks me to take up my cross for another day, follow along and trust Him to make me into exactly the person I should be. Someone just like Him.