Pick Up Your Cross
One of my favorite memories from my childhood is singing along with Kid’s Praise music. Anyone else grow up listening to Psalty the Singing Songbook?
One of the songs from the Kid’s Praise #2 album is “If Any Man”. The lyrics are straight from Matthew 16:24.
If any man come after me,
Let him deny himself,
Pick up his cross,
And follow me into life eternally.
I loved singing this song with my sisters and my friends, because there is a part where you sing in rounds. The music is joyful and it always made me smile.
The concept of picking up my cross and following Jesus has been something I have understood for quite some time. I knew that serving the Lord with my life was not going to be a walk in the park. And when I married my husband who was a youth pastor at the time, I knew that there would be challenges ahead.
But for a long time, I have assumed that following Jesus would feel like singing “If Any Man”. Sure, there would be challenges and it would be tough, but when you have Jesus in your boat, what do you have to fear? There is joy in serving Jesus, right?
The answer to this question is emphatically YES! There IS joy in serving Jesus, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. Quite the opposite. It’s true that we don’t have anything to fear, because Jesus is greater than anything we will face. And it’s true that we can have abundant joy on this journey. But denying ourselves? Picking up our cross? Following Jesus wherever he leads? These things are hard and some seasons can be downright unbearable.
Denying ourselves means that things won’t always go the way we want them to. It means we will be misunderstood and even mistreated. It means that we don’t get to demand our rights. It requires us to seek God’s glory as our highest goal. Sometimes His glory means that we will get what we “want”. When our desires are in line with His will, then we will receive the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4). But often times, God’s glory will not feel like what we want. It is for this reason that we must learn to pray as Jesus prayed. Not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42).
I’ve been contemplating this idea of “picking up our cross” a great deal lately. The truth is we are all being asked to take up our cross, but we don’t get to decide what that cross will be. Let me say that again. We don’t get to decide what that cross will be. It might be the loss of our health. It might be the death of a loved one. It might be losing our income. It might be betrayal from friends or unfair accusations. It might be anxiety or depression. It might be a virus that puts the entire world in a holding pattern.
We don’t get to decide what difficulties will come our way. But we do get to decide if we will pick “the cross” up and follow Jesus or if we will fight back and refuse to follow until it goes back to the way we want it to be. What I have learned in my life is that we had better be doing the hard work of trusting Jesus in the good times, because it is the only way we will be able to follow him when the way grows dark and our strength fails.
Following Jesus sounds noble and grand doesn’t it? It has been the cry of my heart from a very young age. My sister wrote a song when we were young girls that has stuck with me. “I want to lose my life and give it away… I just want to follow, I just want to follow You.” Even then, I knew that following Jesus would involve giving my life away. But what about when it’s my husband or my children who are suffering? What do I do then? What about when there is strife and division and I am helpless to do anything about it? Do I follow then?
The answer for me must be yes. Even then. Because I have decided to follow Jesus and there is no turning back.
If you’re sensing a song theme in this post, you are right. God impresses his Word on my heart through reading, through prayer and through song. This one by MercyMe is one of my current favorites. No matter what comes my way, God is good. Jesus is worth following. Always.
How are you doing in this storm we are all facing and in the individual trials that you have been asked to bear? Are you following Jesus? Do you want to know what that means? I’m here and I care deeply. If you need anything, please reach out!