Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. – Mark 8:34
Jesus used the image of carrying a cross to illustrate the ultimate submission required of His followers. He is not against pleasure, nor was He saying that we should seek pain needlessly. Jesus was talking about the heroic effort needed to follow Him moment by moment, to do His will even when the work is difficult and the future looks bleak.
Nowhere in the Bible does God promise His followers an easy life. On the contrary, Jesus told. His followers expect trouble in this world. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”- John 16:33.
TAKING UP OUR CROSS TO FOLLOW JESUS
Each one of the disciples was executed for his faith, with the exception of John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos, and Judas, who died by suicide. These were the men who literally changed the face of the world by their willingness to follow Jesus and kick-start the great movement that would eventually become known as Christianity. And they all died. Badly.
And the suffering didn’t stop there. Paul, who took up the mantle of the first disciples, boasted of his sufferings for the Lord (2 Corinthians 11:16–33).
Consequently, throughout the ages, Christians have often embraced suffering as not only
necessary to live but also a sign of living the life God intended for them to live. And, no doubt, this is sometimes the case, as Jesus said it would be when He declared that whoever wanted to become His disciple would need to “deny themselves and take up their cross” and follow Him.
Countless Christians have interpreted their own trials and tribulations as forms of taking up
their crosses to follow Jesus, enduring whatever life throws their way for the sake of a faith that will be rewarded — perhaps not immediately but certainly eternally.
Peace, then, is not to be found in the circumstances of life but in God’s peace, which “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 ESV).
Life is suffering — brutal, unfair, and often very, very cruel and confusing. Yes, Jesus told us to expect suffering in this world, sometimes of the unimaginable variety.
But that is not all Jesus said.
In fact, in the very same verse where He promised that life will be hard, He also reminded us
that He has already overcome this world, a truth He not only articulated with words but also
manifested physically in His resurrection from the dead.
In life, there is suffering and death, but in God, there is healing and life. In John’s gospel, Jesus said this life is the very reason He came to earth. And not just any kind of life but one lived “abundantly”. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10 (ESV).
What does that entail?
Well, probably a lot. God’s call on our lives is never singular. To live as God intends is to
necessarily experience life in all of its diversity. As the book of Ecclesiastes teaches,
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. —
In other words, yes, the Christian life will necessarily call us to experience hardship and
sacrifice, but it should also involve abundance:
i. Abundant living is not driving a Range Rover. For some, abundant living is not being
plagued by panic attacks. For others, abundant living is not coping with our stress by
ii. Abundant living is wanting to wake up with the sun instead of hiding out in bed.
iii. Thus, abundant living is doing the things that bring us joy and actually feeling that joy.
iv. Abundant living is loving and being loved by God.
v. That’s abundant living, and that’s what I believe all of us deserve because Jesus Christ
said we do.
vi. Abundant living means we also deserve the chance to walk through life not mired
forever in the deeper ditches of depression.
MHB 406 – MY GOD, I AM THINE
1 My God, I am Thine, what a comfort divine,
What a blessing to know that my Jesus is mine!
In the heavenly Lamb thrice happy I am,
And my heart it doth dance at the sound of His name.
2 True pleasures abound in the rapturous sound;
And whoever hath found it hath paradise found:
My Jesus to know, and feel His blood flow,
’Tis life everlasting, ’tis Heaven below.
3 Yet onward I haste to the heavenly feast:
That, that is the fulness; but this is the taste!
And this I shall prove, till with joy I remove
To the heaven of heavens in Jesus’ love.
Charles Wesley, 1707 – 1788
The Christian life boils down to this… Suffering, yes. Abundance, absolutely yes. We are loved
by God! He has an abundant life planned for us even when it includes difficulties and hardships.
Depression doesn’t have to be the end game for us.
Hope starts now.
Inspired by Faith Gateway Devotionals.
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