"[H]e, bearing his cross, went forth" †
We too called upon to bear our cross, by Jesus himself "And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" Matthew. 10:38. Whoever would follow him, must take up the cross. In the face of the terrifying reality of Christ's Crucifixion, this may seem an inconceivable task, a counsel of despair. Why does God ask so much of us? Has he not told us salvation is a free gift "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23? How can we do this?
The first step is to accept the reassurance of Christ himself, who said to his Apostles at the Last Supper, the very night before the Crucifixion "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. ...If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. ... Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you ... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:1,27: Or as he put it more succinctly at another time: "Fear not. Only believe."
This trust in Christ's word leads to the ability to do what he wants because he has made his home in us. We are not alone, we do not bear our cross by ourselves. "Come unto me, all that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am gentle and humble in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew. 11:28-30 Of course, the yoke was not easy or the burden light for Him, as we remember today most especially, but precisely because of that, he makes it so for us.
So, that's the second step after letting go of fear: know and believe that "it is God at work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Php. 2:13. He promises to give you sufficient strength for the task, if we follow the obedience of faith, and not to take you beyond your strength "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." 1 Co. 10:13.
The third step is not to try to guess the future, or the precise nature of your cross. We simply don't know enough of tomorrow to do this "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away." James 4:14. Many of the things we fear may happen never do, or God delivers us from the worst. We know the path of the cross will involve suffering, but we cannot know and do not need to know much beyond that. Don't waste mental and emotional energy on phantoms of what might or might not be. Take each day as it comes "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." Matthew. 6:34.
The fourth step is to choose to complete the path, to persist till the end, looking forward to the empty tomb beyond, with the inner vision of the Cross of Christ our companion. Never give up. Remind yourself of his Sacrifice, which is your hope. We see this attitude in St Paul: "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings:" Philippians. 2:8-14.
"I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
And this passage answers those earlier questions.
How shall we take up our cross?
and keep putting one foot in front of the other. †