Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25.)
But what kind of cross do we each bear? What is its shape, weight, size, or dimension? The crosses we may carry are many: the cross of loneliness, the cross of physical limitations—loss of a leg, an arm, hearing, seeing, or mobility. These are obvious crosses. We see people with these crosses, and we admire their strength in carrying them with dignity. Poor health can be a cross, as can transgression, recognition, temptation, beauty, fame, or wealth. Financial burdens can be a cross. So can criticism or rejection by our associates.
But there are many crosses in life that, though real, are not so easily seen or recognized. One type of cross is that of violated trust by a parent, a family member, a teacher, a bishop, a member of the stake presidency, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a co-worker, or a classmate.
Another cross that isn’t always visible but that on occasion can be very heavy and worrisome is the lack of self-respect—a feeling of unwillingness to accept oneself. Can you find it in your heart to once in a while compliment yourself on your behavior? Or do you think poorly of yourself no matter what you do? Having feelings like these can be a heavy cross to bear. Such a cross may slow down your eternal progression.
Wishing that we were some other person with greater talents and greater strengths is a handicap. It is also a cross to bear when we fail to realize that, with God’s help, we can accomplish much. We can learn to be like Ammon, who, in one of my favorite quotations from the Book of Mormon, said:
“I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.
“Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things.” (Alma 26:11–12.)
I wish we would believe and practice what Ammon said. Many people who have been called to positions of responsibility humbly say, “Heavenly Father, I’m weak, but with your help, I can do it.” God can make our crosses easier to bear if we are willing to seek his help. In Doctrine and Covenants 56:2, we read the Lord’s words: “He that will not take up his cross and follow me, and keep my commandments, the same shall not be saved.” [D&C 56:2]
The scriptures say, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42.) It’s true. We can learn to repent and to forgive ourselves. Unfortunately, some of us would rather carry a cross farther than we need to rather than confess and start anew.
Another cross is that of resistance to counsel. Some of us have a tendency to resent, resist, rebel, delay, or debate worthy direction, supervision, or communication. We may think, “Who are you to tell me?” “Why all the restrictions?” “Where does free agency come in?” or “Why don’t you just leave me alone?”
We may reject counsel because it causes us inconvenience or because we cannot see its value. I plead with you to prayerfully follow the counsel you are given.
Sometimes we are given crosses so that we can learn to pray. Crosses become more manageable when we learn to pray and when we learn to wait for an answer. An unwillingness to listen and learn can be a silent cross of considerable weight. Pray constantly—even when answers are slow or difficult to accept.
Praise of the world can be a heavy cross. I’m not referring to money or position; I’m referring to recognition. Of course, we should honor callings and responsibilities. But how great in the sight of the Lord are those who, though they are recognized, honored, and respected, realize in their hearts that true greatness is found in following the Savior and helping those who are sick, afflicted, discouraged, homeless, and burdened with crosses.
It is our right and responsibility to carry our crosses, and while we’re doing it, to have the good sense and judgment to count our blessings, as the hymn tells us:
(Hymns, 1985, no. 241.)
I bear witness to you that crosses that may sometimes seem unreasonable and unfair, can be for our good. Carrying crosses and following the Savior will bring strength, peace, and purpose to our lives.