Taking up the Cross – The Choice to Suffer

Choices – we make them all the time.  Most notable is the athlete, who chooses to be inconvenienced and, even worse, to suffer for the sake of his goal.  But there are also those who have become handicapped by an accident or disease, who struggle against the hardship and pain, determined to walk again, or to maintain their own way of life rather than to give in to helplessness.  There are people financially struggling through school and placing themselves into great debt, forgoing the “freer” lifestyles of others, in order to achieve proficiency in some field.  Parents have chosen to advance their children even when it compelled some even great sacrifices on their part.

When Jesus tells us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” [Luke 9:23], it really is not that outlandish a call.  He is not calling forth a masochistic side of us, where we are to deliberately make ourselves needlessly suffer just for the badge of pain that we can wear.  Instead, the suffering – and some of it is beyond mere inconvenience – mentioned above is an accurate picture of what Jesus is talking about.  It really is not far from what people do in daily life.

First, it must be settled that “the cross” Jesus refers to is not necessarily the ache of arthritis, or a string of “bad luck,” or uncooperative children.  These are not crosses that we “take up” – they are external to us and they do not come upon us by choice.

However, “the cross” may lie in how we choose react to such things, whether we will follow God’s will or not.  In other words, “the cross” that we “take up daily” is a lifestyle that we choose to have.  The difficulty of this cross is not merely whether we will endeavor to be a “nice” person, but rather in how we conform to God’s will.  That is not an easy route to take – Jesus makes some strong statements, as an example:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also.  And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.  Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. …
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.  Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  [Luke 6:27-37]

These things are not enjoyable, in fact, for the most part they downright rub our human nature raw, especially when it comes to how we should deal with some people.  But what is particularly bothersome is that this is what God wants of us, that we “will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the unthankful and evil.”  On one hand is the reminder that we are part of a special class of humanity: “children of the Most High”; however, humbling ourselves like this is not only uncomfortable, not only unattractive, but also our human nature is not quite sure that God really knows what He is talking about in regard to the real world.  Sin’s rebellion screams out how all this is really a stupid idea.

This is why Jesus refers to this as a “cross.”  It is to choose a direction opposite to our natural inclination.  It is to choose to be put at risk; to become vulnerable; to have advantage taken of us; to look very foolish to everybody around us, even to the person with whom we are dealing.  It can be painful, not so much physically, but mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.  We see the loss and the sacrifices: will we not be less, have less, in some way, especially in those things that are “important”?  Do we not have our dignity and integrity to uphold?
Men who have problem in erecting and maintaining their male reproductive organ will rush to ejaculate. A study from Harvard stated that more than 30000 men over the age 50 who were physically active had lower risks of ED than who were not active. Diminished autography also contribute to mitochondrial injury and formation of Mallory- Denk bodies. They are authorized to make drugs using the formula.
Considering the examples we started with, one aspect of the sacrifices and the suffering that the various individuals endured was because their choices were focussed not on the immediate difficulty, but rather on their endpoint goal or objective.  That is Paul’s point in Hebrews 12:1: “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  The goal is well worth it, but sometimes it is hard to convince ourselves that it is worth the effort and even the pain.  After all, the post on “Doing What is Right” looked at the suffering that comes when one does what he supposed to do.

One thing that is important is to remember just Who it is Who bids us to take up our cross.  Jesus is not one to tell us to do something He would not do Himself.  In fact, His ordeals are quite a bit ramped up from what we would ever encounter.  However, this is not a put down on us, to act as if our experience is so trivial.  Rather it is to affirm that when we go to Jesus in regard to our “crosses,” we encounter a wise and very experienced Person.  How quickly people will run to gurus and sages, and yet in Jesus is a background to which the others never even come close.

But He is not merely one to approach for advice!  Covenant adds its aspect here, where Jesus has joined Himself to us.  It means that our suffering is felt by Him.  Although it is important that we talk about our “crosses” with Him, we need to realize that He is already walking, not just with us, but also within those “crosses” as well.  He has a depth of understanding of our “crosses” that we will never fully comprehend.

But it also means we have a Strength to which we can turn.  And we have a hope for how things will ultimately turn out, “For we know that He works all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” [Romans 8:28].  We have a Resource in us:

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.   [Romans 5:3-5]

Taking up one’s “cross,” being “children of the Most High, for He is kind to the unthankful and evil,” this is something that may seem, well, as Jesus said, “With men it is impossible.”  However, we need to remember the rest of the verse, “but not with God; for with God all things are possible” [Mark 10:27].

We do have God’s involvement and His promise “that He Who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” [Philippians 1:6].  In other words, not only will the goal toward which we are working be worth it, He will back up its success – it will be worth the sacrifice and suffering to receive “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” [Philippians 3:14] and His “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your Master” [Matthew 25:21].

Leave a Reply