Okay, I lied. You might not really find this uplifting, but...
"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'" (Matthew 16:24, 25 NASB)
This morning this verse really messed with me. His was a cross of shame, disgrace, rejection and physical pain. What does it mean to take up my cross? To follow Him?
After the resurrection, Jesus said to Peter:
I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:18, 19 NIV84)
For Peter it meant a literal cross-bearing, a literal following in Jesus' footsteps. He was led to a place He did not want to go, but by choice. Not that he chose it specifically, but he chose to fulfill his calling, knowing the risks, thereby choosing to take up his cross.
For us it's much less literal, at least here in America. When I was thinking about what it means to take up my cross, this is what came to mind: there are times in life that we will be taken to places we do not want to go - painful, uncomfortable, disgraceful places - in order that God be glorified in our lives and/or that we be sanctified.
Sometimes it isn't us at all, but people we love that are taken to places we don't want them to have to go. Jesus took our eternal suffering, but not our temporal suffering on Earth...much as I wish He had. We might stomp our feet and say "No!" like Peter did when Jesus told them about His impending death, but His plan won't be thwarted.
What does it look like to bear a cross?
Sometimes it's rejection. Be willing to be disgraced for Him.
Sometimes it's sickness. Be willing to hold fast to your testimony that He is good, no matter what.
Sometimes it's letting go of reputation and posturing and looking "good," so that He can have a chance, for once, to really change you. Be willing to look foolish.
Sometimes it's letting go of a relationship that isn't leading us toward Life. Be willing to be lonely.
Sometimes it's choosing to live life in a way completely different than the world around you does. Be willing to be called "weird."
Sometimes it's moving out into unfamiliar territory, so that He can love people through you. Wash feet. Serve a cup of water. Wipe a tear. Be willing to help carry a cross that isn't yours.
Sometimes it's death. Be willing to lay down your life for the sake of another.
Cross-bearing can take any number of forms, but one thing is necessary no matter the hardship. We have got to be willing to lose our lives (or the things we think bring life), in order to gain real Life. It's very simple but so hard to do. We must hold all things loosely. ALL things. Family, friends, money, reputation, children.
Even as I say that I cringe. That's why He said it's a cross we must bear. There is a cost to be counted. It's not a game. But His glory is so worth it and His goodness deserves it.
I really can't even do this subject matter justice. I can't say anything more than, Lord, strengthen my weak knees.