I have often heard people talk about chronic pain in a Christian as their “cross” to bear when they quote this passage of Jesus’ words:
And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” ~ Mark 8:34-35
Recently our Pastor at Northshore Baptist Church, Jonathan Alexander preached a sermon that summed up what I have felt for years regarding his passage – but didn’t know how to express. In this passage Jesus says that to take up your cross you have to deny yourself and the taking up of the cross is an action you have to choose. Those of us with chronic pain or illness know that our illness was anything but a choice we made. Although God uses our pain and we see His hand working in our lives and in the lives of others because of the illness, it isn’t something we would have chosen. When you look at Jesus when He took up His literal cross to die for our sins, He had the choice – it wasn’t something that happened outside of His choice and will. He is God – so no one could impose something on Him that wasn’t His choice. Taking up a cross to follow Jesus involves choice. Pastor Jonathan went on to say that the denying ourselves and choosing to live for God’s glory in the midst of difficult circumstances is an act of taking up our cross. We can choose to live a life of self-sacrifice and God-honoring joy in the midst of trials, and that is a cross we can choose. It isn’t easy to fight against the human and natural urge to complain and to wallow in self-pity. It is a cross for us to bear to choose joy over self-pity, and bitterness. It fights against our sin nature to live a life of joy through pain. Today I choose to pick up my cross and live in joy no matter what.
I encourage all of you to check out Pastor Jonathan's blog post for more about this passage and picking up our cross daily. http://blogs.nsb.org/jonathanalexander/2011/01/cross-bearing-choice-vision-follow-through/