Five years ago, I was at a bonfire with a few friends and family at my sister’s house. Among the guests were three young black men who were in medical school. At the time, I had been thinking about the idea of returning to school, but the fear and unsuccessful attempts always crippled me. As I listened to them talking of their aspirations, I thought, “Is there any black woman in my immediate circle or community who studied sciences or who is in the medical field?” At that moment I could not think of anyone. I blushed off that thought and focused on other things. The next day, I went to visit a church to which my supervisor at the time had invited me to. There was a guest speaker and he spoke about this verse in Luke 9:23 “…Take up your cross daily and follow me.” The question asked was what does pick your cross and follow Jesus mean to you? And at that moment, I knew exactly what It meant in my life.
Sometimes when we read about these verses in Luke 9, we associate the cross with burdens and situations that we must endure that are not pleasant. However, it is more than that; Jesus carried the cross that he was going to be crucified on for our sake. He denied the pleasure of this world, endured mockery, physical pain through the journey to the cross, but through it all He pressed ahead because He knew that it was His mission, and our salvation was through His sufferings. Taking Up Your Cross is being more than an earthly burden, but more dying to yourself. In other words, it is about denying yourself and suppressing certain desires that you have the right to, to follow Christ and what he has created you for. This is not popular in our world; we are more self-centered individuals.
Life has become more about what we can get out of the situation rather than what we can give. We say “do what feels good” but the cross will never feel good, because it tends to go against our human nature. Still, I believe that the outcome is tremendously good, not necessarily for us, but for other people, whose lives will be impacted by our decisions. In my life taking up my cross daily and following Jesus meant leaving my job at the time and facing my fear of never being good enough in the scientific field. This meant trading my social justice activities, financial independency, and even the possibility of having a family, for extended unpaid hours in scientific labs.
As I wrote this blog, it was Holy Friday 2021 and as I meditated God’s word in Mark 15 which is about the journey of Jesus to Golgotha, three themes or concepts stood out for me: mockery, silence, and assistance.
Throughout the journey, you will encounter people, family members, and friends who ridicule your choices to live a life that is pleasing to God or to step in your calling to serve the kingdom. Like Jesus, whom we are called to model, endure these mockeries, because you know the crown of glory that is promised to you is in heaven. 1 Peter 5:10 says, “… So after you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support and strengthen you, and will place you on a firm foundation”. In all, endure the mockery of the journey gracefully and remain silent. At the end of the day, as Dr. Helen Roseveare said: “God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply”; the loss is necessary for any restoration to have meaning.
Jesus remained silent throughout the events that led to his crucifixion. Isaiah 53:7 reminds us of this “… He never said a word… He did not open his mouth”. Once one knows what they are denying themselves of, for the sake of Christ and Christ alone, then the need to explain or justify oneself to people, who will unlikely understand your decision, disappears. You are the one who prayed; the one who reasoned with God and ultimately the one who was entrusted with a mission. The world may never understand that, so boldly press toward the goal for you are not alone.
It always amazes me how God positions things and people throughout the journey. Among the clouds that were following to see Jesus’s crucifixion, God strategically placed Simon, a passerby to carry the cross for Jesus. He also chose Joseph the Arimethea, an honoured member of the high council who risked his position to ask the body of Christ, so he can give Him a proper burial. Then, there are the women who were there throughout the entire event. These women can be compared to our immediate circle of support, people we know who encourage us, pray for us, and take care of us in spite of the circumstance. Again, throughout the journey, you will receive help from unknown people to you, but these people are meticulously placed there to help you carry the cross to the destination.
Personally, I find taking up my cross and following Jesus remarkably difficult and it requires unimaginable courage, but I take solace in knowing that I am never alone, as Deuteronomy 31:6 says. And knowing that the one who has called me is just and faithful.
By Grace Karambizi