"Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Mark 8:34).
The cross which my Lord bids me take up and carry may assume different shapes. I may have to content myself with a lowly and narrow sphere, when I feel that I have capacities for much higher work. I may have to go on cultivating year after year, a field which seems to yield me no harvests whatsoever. I may be bidden to cherish kind and loving thoughts about someone who has wronged me--be bidden speak to him tenderly, and take his part against all who oppose him, and crown him with sympathy and succor. I may have to confess my Master amongst those who do not wish to be reminded of Him and His claims. I may be called to "move among my race, and show a glorious morning face," when my heart is breaking.
There are many crosses, and every one of them is sore and heavy. None of them is likely to be sought out by me of my own accord. But never is Jesus so near me as when I lift my cross, and lay it submissively on my shoulder, and give it the welcome of a patient and unmurmuring spirit.
He draws close, to ripen my wisdom, to deepen my peace, to increase my courage, to augment my power to be of use to others, through the very experience which is so grievous and distressing, and then--as I read on the seal of one of those Scottish Covenanters whom Claverhouse imprisoned on the lonely Bass, with the sea surging and sobbing round--I grow under the load.
"Use your cross as a crutch to help you on, and not as a stumblingblock to cast you down."
"You may others from sadness to gladness beguile,
If you carry your cross with a smile."