“You don’t get to choose your cross, but you do get to choose how you carry it.”
I woke up yesterday with this in my mind and heart. The second I opened my eyes, it was there. Anytime that happens, the first thing I do is go read scripture. In the battlefield of, “God told me” versus “The Bible says” in evangelical culture, the Bible says wins for me each time because if it’s not backed up by scripture, it wasn’t God telling you.
“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” – Luke 9:23-24
These were the verses that came to mind immediately. Jesus is talking here, and explaining what it means to follow Him. Here’s what connected what was in my mind to this verse immediately:
There is a part of myself I have to deny to follow Christ. That part is my flesh. Our impatience at times, our struggle to forgive when wronged, our unwillingness to see where we are Lord and Christ isn’t in our lives, and on and on is our flesh rearing it’s true depraved ugliness. There are so many ways we can be snared in this flesh, and all of them keep us from seeing that what God calls us to in all those places is for our good and His glory.
Taking up your cross daily. That’s where what was on my mind becomes important. Sometimes it feels like we expect things to go “right” and when things get hard, we feel wronged. “You don’t get to choose your cross…” what that means to me is that choosing Jesus means choosing your cross. They are one in the same. You cannot do one without the other. If you think that you are following Christ without taking up what it means to go after Him daily, you aren’t following Christ. God meant it to be hard so you couldn’t do it without Jesus. If you could have, there would have been no need for the cross of Christ.
To some degree people believe they can be a Christian without following Christ. How can you do one without the other here? Either you love Christ and go after Him or you don’t. There is no in between. Does that mean you won’t struggle in your pursuit of Him? No. What that means is not willfully choosing what He says is sin and calling yourself His child.
I don’t mean there should be a legalistic checklist for how you do life daily, but there should be a willingness to go after Him and carry the cross you were given to carry. Those hard things make a way for Him to be glorified in them. Those hard things feel like a struggle, but carrying that cross means looking up and seeing the cross that went before you. Jesus is the standard in all things, unto the point of death, He was humble and obedient, trusting God to be who He said He would be. Oh that I could be that all the time! Oh that this would be my default. Life would be so much easier sometimes if I set my mind and heart on carrying my cross knowing that Christ has gone before, the victory is won, and that there will come a day when the battle of my flesh will be over! There will come a day when eternity with Christ starts, and I hear, “Well done” because I kept my eyes on the cross that went before me.
The reason I think we forget this is because we want it to be easier than this. We want salvation and the person of Christ to give us ease today. We want that now so when struggles do come, we doubt God. When that cross gets heavy, we forget that we were promised that Christ was sufficient in all things. He didn’t die to give us nice homes, nice things, and an easy life without struggle. We are not owed ease; we are gifted with a secured hope through the cross of Christ.
Why is that important? We get too comfortable here. This world is not our home and everything about it screams for us to choose personal comfort and what feels good over our crosses. But God…
God loves us too much to leave us there. He loves us too much to give us cheap, fleeting happiness. He gives us everlasting joy through His Son. Through Him we can know joy here, and then an exponential amount in eternity. It may feel like you are saving yourself and giving yourself the best life of ease now to not picking up your cross, but the final parts of the verses I shared call for you to lose your life for His sake!
The life you are giving up apart from Christ may have seemed good, but the life you live following after Jesus, cross carried and all, will satisfy in a way that fills you with abounding love and peace and joy that the world cannot give. He is good and good to us. Following Him may not always be easy, but it is worth eternally knowing Him. You knowing Him cost Him a cross too because of His love for you.