“This is my cross to bear”
Often Christians and non-believers use this phrase to describe their burden of suffering in life. Unfortunately, both of them err in understanding the context of these words given by Jesus. Listen to Jesus’ words after Peter confesses that He is the Messiah:
21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Lk. 9:21-26 ESV)
When Jesus talks about taking up our cross, He is not talking about common human suffering, such as illness, troubled marriages, wayward children, problems at work, or shortage of money. All of these human struggles are common to both believers and non-believers. As believers living in a fallen world and in bodies that await redemption, we are not immune from the ordinary suffering of humanity. This is not our cross to bear.
However, if we understand and obey what Jesus meant when he spoke about ‘our cross,’ we will be better equipped to handle the ordinary sufferings of life common to all humanity, as well as the extraordinary sufferings of life, that come upon us because of our identification with Jesus Christ.
Bearing your cross (i.e. “take up your cross daily”) means ‘ dying to self that you may live for Jesus Christ.’ It is the willing abandonment of a life that is centered on autonomy and a willing surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is a willingness to lose our life as we have designed it so that we may follow Him for His glory. It is a commitment to not be ashamed of Him and His Words. Again, bearing your cross means dying to self that you may live for Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul captured the intent of Jesus words in 2 Corinthians 5:
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Cor. 5:14-15 ESV)
Only when we truly ‘bear our cross’ by dying to self and living for Christ will we be able to glorify God in the ordinary suffering of life common to all humanity, and in the extraordinary sufferings of life which come upon us because of our identification with Jesus Christ.