I try to make sense of life. I think about what Jesus said in Mark 8, when He called the crowd to Him with his disciples, and He said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Seasons of crud in life come and go, when you hate what’s happening to you and around you. I miss the beach. My computer crashed. Those car accidents were a drag. A friend’s 16-year-old daughter has leukemia. What does it look like to come after Jesus in your life?
Deny yourself. You can’t always get what you want. Your cries, “I demand my rights!” fall on His deaf ears. Peter didn’t want Jesus to go to the cross and he got schooled, “Satan, get behind me!” God’s plan is the way to go and He won’t be put in a box by your wishes. We must learn to see life and the world through His eyes and perspective, not our desires. You don’t get to tell God what kind of God to be. He is who He is and you deny yourself concerning Him. To come after Jesus is to willingly surrender all your decisions and dreams for His glory and grand purpose.
Take up your cross. The cross was punishment, pain, shame, and death. It is not a fashion accessory or decorative wall art. His cross was suffering and your cross is as well. You have to carry your own beams to the place of your own execution. We experience more of the same thing He did. If you try to save your own life by your own efforts and achievements, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for His sake, you will be saved. Bear whatever troubles you have and conform to Him in His pain and death.
Follow Jesus. Where He commands, you go. Where He leads, you keep behind, with no expectations and no half-hearted effort. One man asked, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But he was told, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord, but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Following Jesus is devoted, forward-looking obedience to the Savior in front of you, wherever He goes, no matter the cost.
When I think about the crud of life, coming after Jesus and denying yourself and picking up your cross is to grow in the school of suffering. Some seasons are harder than others, but you are loved by Christ if you are in Christ. God has not forgotten you. He is not ashamed of you. You can sing, “It is well with my soul,” in your suffering, as you deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Him. God hears you in your hard place. God said, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.” He is the good shepherd taking care of you, His lamb. He makes you lie down in green pastures, He leads you by still waters. Even if you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you do not need to fear. The crud will be over soon.