Three things – deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me. All three are difficult. And the first – deny yourself – must be the hardest. Letting go of your life and handing it over to God.
I read somewhere that the most challenging thing for today’s man is to let go of control over his life. But if we don’t let it go, we have our “hands full” (control), and we can’t even grab the cross, put it on our shoulders, and carry it. There is no way to follow Jesus, either.
Deny Yourself, Take Up Your Cross, Follow Me
I read somewhere that it is too easy for us to interpret carrying the cross only as a burden that we have to carry in our lives, say a problematic relationship with our wife, problems at work, illness,… We look at our problems, sigh, and say: “This is my cross to bear.”
But this is not (only) what Jesus meant when he said: “Take up your cross and follow me.” It’s much worse. In Jesus’ time, carrying the cross meant only one thing: death by crucifixion. To bear the cross was to face the most painful, shameful, and humiliating way of death. No one thought of it as some life nuisance or some symbolic burden.
Therefore, Jesus’ command to “take up your cross” is a call to accept what we will experience as Christians – humiliation and sacrifice. That you are ready to die to follow Jesus. You are dying to yourself as a complete surrender to God. It hurts a lot!
To Follow Jesus
To indeed follow Jesus means that Jesus becomes everything to us.
Everyone follows something: friends, popular culture, family, selfish desires, or God. But we can only follow one thing at a time (Matthew 6:24). Truly following Jesus means following only Him and nothing else. There is no such thing as a “half-hearted follower of Jesus.”
As the disciples showed, no one can follow Christ by the strength of their own will. The Pharisees were a good example of those who tried to listen to God with their own strength. Their self-assertion only led to arrogance and a distortion of the whole purpose of God’s law (Matthew 23:24).
Following Jesus means striving to be like him. Jesus always obeyed the commandments of his Father, and let us also strive for this (John 15:10).
To truly follow Christ means to make him the Lord of our lives (Romans 10:9). So that we “filter” every thought and every decision through His word to imitate and glorify Him in everything (1 Corinthians 10:31). All of this can be achieved when we allow Jesus to have complete control over all areas of our lives through the Holy Spirit.
Following Jesus means that we strive to “apply” in our lives the truths that we learn from His Word (beautifully written in the Bible and explained in the writings of the Church’s Magisterium – say in the Catechism of the Catholic Church), and we live as if Jesus personally walked beside us. And He can also walk beside us If only we keep pace with Him.
Jordan B. Peterson About the Cross
“It’s not obvious that’s happiness is what molds you shapes you. It’s more like optimal challenge voluntarily undertaken. Something like that. It’ echoed in idea that everyone has moral obligation to raise their cross, to accept the fact of their mortality voluntarily. It’s prerequisite to proper psychological development, because if you are not willing to take your mortality on voluntarily like if you are kicking and fighting about it constantly then you can’t act forthrightly in the world. You are going to be afraid and when you are afraid, you can’t voluntarily take on a challenge. And when you can’t take voluntarily on a challenge, then you can’t develop.”