I don’t think Jesus was referring to our daily toils and trials. To take up our cross and to follow Jesus starts with literally taking up our cross. We can’t take it up for someone else nor can anyone take it up for us. The point is, it is “your cross” to pick up and not mine, and neither is mine for you to take up, so first we must take up our cross, and only then can we follow Jesus. Our cross is not dealing with chronic health problems, dealing with disobedient children, experiencing a relationship issue, or having one of the worst jobs on the planet. I don’t believe we can say, “That’s the cross I have to carry,” if we’re referring to things that cause us problems in life. Jesus wasn’t carrying His cross of being mistreated and beaten by the Roman guards or falsely accused and arrested. His cross meant only one thing for Him; death, but His death would bring eternal life for us, so His cross wasn’t about Himself, but about others.
The only way to God is through the cross … and to follow Him means to take it up. The words, to take it up, are a challenge to us. We often think of the perks of faith and not of the costs. But following Christ is not a passive endeavor. We have to be active in our faith, and being active in our faith will, quite frankly, cost us. This means that if we want to follow Christ, then we must be prepared to nail ourselves up there.
But in order to do that, we need to strip away all those things we cloak ourselves with. We need to strip away selfish desires, rip off arrogance and pride, and scrape off stubbornness. It means making God’s will our will, not creating our own path, but following in the footsteps of Jesus.
Our Lord chose the cross as the means of our salvation precisely because of the great cost it meant for Him and for us, so that in recognizing that cost, we can appreciate the immense joy and peace we find in His victory. So be not afraid. Let’s take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is definitely worth it!