What Does it Mean to Bear Our Cross?

by Richard Mansel, managing editor
lightcross2.jpgIn Mark 8:34, Jesus said, “Whomever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (NKJV). What does it mean to take up or bear our cross? This is the very heart of Christian discipleship.
Many use the phrase in ways Scripture never intended. They will say, “I have a bad back and that is my cross to bear.” Or, “I have arthritis and that is my cross to bear.” They will use it to represent the hardships in their lives or of others. We must be careful not to cheapen this most sacred of tasks for the following reasons.
First, hard times are not bearing our cross because they exist for everyone. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV). Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). Troubles come with living, not discipleship.
Second, bearing our cross is voluntary. We read in Matthew 10:38, “And he who does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Luke wrote, “whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).
Bearing our cross is our decision to make, as these Scriptures clearly show. Therefore, hard times cannot be bearing our cross because no one asks for storms to savage their life. No one willingly endures the pain of suffering and loss. Christ says, “take up your cross,” not “receive your cross.”
Third, bearing our cross is contingent on our continuing to bear it. Jesus said in Luke 14:26-35 that we must sit down and count the costs before we decide to become a disciple. He says, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Luke 14:28). When we take up our cross, we must keep on bearing the cross until we die. No one seeks to maintain the troubles in our life.
Fourth, bearing our cross is directed toward the glory of God. When we take up our cross and follow him, it is to bring glory to God, not ourselves. We must lose our pride and self-interest in order to bear our cross. Jesus gave up everything to go to the cross and he asks the same sacrifice of us today.
When we discuss our pain, we are directing attention to ourselves, not our Savior. It is not wrong to talk about our pain. Yet it is not what Jesus meant when he asked us to bear our cross.
“Why did Jesus use this particular illustration? He used a radical symbol to get people’s attention. He was not simply speaking of an individual’s personal problem or obstacle. In that day and age, a person who was bearing a cross was walking to his death. Bearing your cross means dying to self, laying aside your personal goals, desires, ambitions and goals for your life.” / 1
A. W. Tozer wrote, “In every Christian’s heart there is a throne and a cross; if he refuses the cross, he remains on the throne. We want to be saved, but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying. We remain king within the little kingdom of man’s soul and wear our tinsel crown with all the pride of Caesar; but we doom ourselves to shadows and weakness and spiritual sterility.”
/ 1. Author unknown.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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