When someone is going through difficulties, it may be a terminal illness, illness of a spouse or child, loss of a job, a divorce, the thing that we hear is something like “we all have our cross to bear”.
Here’s what Dictionary.com says about the phrase, we all have our cross to bear;
A burden or trial one must put up with, as in Alzheimer's is a cross to bearfor the whole family, or in a lighter vein, Mowing that huge lawn once a week is Brad's cross to bear : This phrase alludes to the cross carried by Jesus to his crucifixion. Today it may be used either seriously or lightly.[Second half of 1500s ]
That comment often made to try and comfort is really not what someone going through something wants to hear. I heard is last week from someone trying to comfort a grieving family of a person of some notoriety who was embroiled in a scandal before their death. When I heard the person say, “well we all have our cross to bear” my response was, “Really”? Many people look at Jesus carrying His cross to show that we must bear our own cross. When Jesus walked the earth the cross meant a painful humiliating death not what we call a burden today. Also scripture doesn’t ever say that Jesus carried His own cross all the way to and up Golgoth alone.
John 19:17-18 (NKJV)17 And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha,18 where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center.
Matthew 27:32 (NKJV) Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.
Today Christians think of the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love.
For most Christians, today the belief comes from something Jesus said to His disciples
Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Mark 8:34 (NKJV) When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, "Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.
Since the cross was seen as a symbol of punishment and death it is unlikely that Jesus was talking about the kind of death that He would experience being what His disciples should desire.
When Jesus said “take up your cross and follow me” He was not talking about things like a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness either.
When Jesus said “taking up his cross” He was talking about putting desires of the flesh to death and follow the path that Jesus was on in doing His Father’s will. .
John 5:19 (NKJV) Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.
John 6:38-40 (NKJV)38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."
To “take up your cross and follow Me” means that you be willing to even die, if it comes to that, to follow Jesus. Whenever Jesus talked about cross bearing He also talked about gaining or saving life.
Luke 9:23-26 (NKJV)23 Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels.
Jesus says that any burden that you carry because of Him is really no burden at all.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Jesus has already born all our sin, the heaviest burden of all on the cross.
Isaiah 53:4-5 (NKJV)4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
There’s A Difference
When it comes to bearing a cross, or burden, we need to determine if the suffering is for the name of Jesus or the result of living in a fallen world.
Matthew 10:22-26 (NKJV)22 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.
John 15:20-21 (NKJV)20 Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.21 But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.
Sickness is not a consequence of following Jesus neither is, a downturn in the economy resulting in a loss of a job, a traffic accident, of sudden death of a loved one is not a cross to bear. We need to recognize the origin of the suffering.
You Never Have To Bear Your Cross Alone
When you say that you have a cross to bear you forget what God says in His word about never leaving or forsaking you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5-6 (NKJV)5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."6 So we may boldly say: "The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"
Having to bear our cross alone would mean that God has forsaken us and left us to fend for ourselves.
Jesus Himself said that suffering would come but He has already rescued us from it. That rescue is not necessarily in this life but in eternity. Today’s suffering is temporary, and Jesus has overcome it.
John 16:33 (NKJV) These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
Romans 8:37-39 (NKJV)37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We Are To Bear Each Other’s Cross (Burdens)
We are told that we are to bear or help bear each other’s burdens.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NKJV) Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.
1 Peter 3:8 (NKJV) Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;
Dr. Charles Stanley gives us 6 ways to do that;
Practical Ways to Bear Burdens
There are hurting people everywhere, but at times we just don't know what to say or do to ease their pain. Here are six practical ways to bear someone else's burden.
Because we were unable to do it ourselves, Jesus bore all of our sin and sorrow, even unto death. As a result, we can live happily and eternally in communion with our Father. If Christ did that for us, how can we ever say, "I'm too busy to bear someone else's burden"?
Used with permission from In Touch Ministries, Inc. © 2016 All Rights Reserved.
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.