The culture says, “Follow your heart.” The culture says, “Do what feels good.” The culture says, “Indulge your desires, your fantasies, your longings – they are there for a reason.”
Christ says, in Luke 9:23, “‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
If you’re anything like me, you may have several weeks at a time of feeling calm and satisfied and peaceful. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, an old sin struggle hits you with severe force and you feel the weight of the crushing burden descend on you again.
And you cry out to the Lord, “Why? Why must I struggle so? Why can’t it be taken from me? Why am I weeping in anguish over this battle with sin?”
The answer might seem cruel to a world who says that there should be no place for pain, hurt, or suffering in our lives. But God has ordained that the dross be removed from the silver through fire – and so it is with our souls becoming sanctified. The process of removing sin from our hearts to make us more like Christ will feel anguishing – but it is the most crucial thing for our ultimate joy.
When Christ said, “take up your cross daily and follow me,” He meant it. Not just the following part, but the taking up your cross part. Daily. And this every-day cross-bearing becomes exhausting. But it’s so necessary.
Jackie Hill Perry says this:
“We know this verse means dying to self, but how often have we seen in it the kind of patient, daily, drawn-out dying that will come of wearing our own cross. That once nailed to our back, it will by no means mean that the sin we die to today will not return tomorrow for us to put it to death again and again until after a season or a lifetime, we discover it dead finally. The crucified life is the life set on enduring until the end when once and for all, the cross is replaced with a crown” (emphasis mine).
Every day that we get up, we should reach for our cross just like we reach for our clothes – for when we say “I do” to Christ, we commit to sharing in the cross-bearing. It means saying no to that which the world says will make us happy, but which God says will ruin us. It means turning away from the soul-crushing sin, the life-sucking temptations, the sugar-coated lies, and the wide paths that lead to destruction.
These are the words we read in our Bibles, but we don’t see them for what they are when they come whispering in our ears. When we think, “Well maybe …” or “It’s not that bad …” or “It’s not what you think” or “Just a little bit …” we rationalize away the sin and eat of the deceptive fruit.
But as soon as we see it for what it is, we must nail it to the cross. We must deny ourselves and surrender to Christ Himself. He’s already walked this road. He has suffered through temptation far greater than we ever will. He practiced perfect obedience to the Father on our behalf, and when we feel like we can’t do it anymore, we must fix our eyes on Him and His strength.
And how did Christ do it? Hebrews 12:2 says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
He endured the cross because He knew what was coming. He lifted His eyes off the rough splinters being shoved into His bloody back, off the pressure of thorns ringed around His head, off the most humiliating kind of death known to man, off the separation from His Father – and fixed them on the joy that was coming after the cross.
When my cross-bearing feels like too much for me, I bow before Scripture and the One who endured far more than me – on my behalf – and find my strength in His. I beg that He would become more beautiful than the temptations of sin. I read of His love until it drowns out the siren songs of lesser loves. I press into the anguish because I know it is only temporary, but obedience to Christ will end in the eternal reward.
And as I walk this daily road of denying myself and following Jesus, He draws me closer to Him. Every brokenhearted prayer and every weakness flung at His feet makes our relationship stronger. He is more intimately acquainted with my struggles than anyone else. And He loves me despite them, more deeply than I will ever know.
That is why it’s worth it.
The world will never understand.
But I’m not living for their approval. I’m living for the approval of One. The One who helps me daily with my cross-bearing, and who promises eternal rewards with Him.
What a treasure is Christ my Lord.