I have thought about this concept many times over the years, I think it is probably a topic no Believer can avoid. I haven’t discussed it with my friends, recently, as it is rather personal and somewhat of a negative topic. This passage contains one of many phrases that have found a place in our language, although it may be waning in usage. For example, someone might say, “Well, that’s my cross to bear,” when referring to a situation they can’t control. Even most pagans know that Jesus was crucified upon a cross, as it is so frequently popularized in Catholic imagery. Yeshua said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) He was speaking figuratively at this point, though it had an obvious prophetic implication. Saving and losing one’s life amplifies the illustration of self-denial. I believe this statement may be the most succinct summary of the Believer’s pathway.
Perhaps the effectiveness and painfullness of the cross is in our self-denial. Many things are painful, even everyday things like physically hard labor or duties in harsh conditions, but sweat, tired, sore muscles and joints are not the sort of pain the cross inflicts. I believe its significant that He referred to “their” cross, as it seems we all have one custom made specifically for us. The cross involves an aspect of life that seems necessary and normal, then demands its removal, out of reach, and denied. This causes pain or anguish or various feelings that reflect our true beliefs. We may then experience a sense of injustice or frustration, particularly in our rationalizations, which are altogether faulty. Ultimately, God’s purpose is attained. Of course, this is just an illustration because God is able to deal with each of us just as we need.
God knows best and He will not let us wander away, but leads us to green pastures, beside still water, but we must also go through the valley of the shadow of death. We must learn lessons, among them the death of our vision and the denial of self. Consider Job who endured so much, (unjustly to the worldly mind), but in the end he was delivered from his own questioning and fully restored. Consider, Jonah whom God delivered through the darkness of the ocean depths to fulfill his purpose. God saves, justifies, sanctifies, redeems, and brings us through by His own mercy and love. We can’t measure God’s fathering of us against anyone else and He does not use a cookie cutter approach, each snowflake is unique and so are we. Surrender to His work and you will find peace and resurrection life.