Have you ever watched young children play? Really, truly, watched them, not just been in the area as a token adult while surfing on your cell phone, but observed them, listened to their conversations, marveled at their imaginations and creativity, heard their laughter and squeals of pure joy? How often have you compared their lives to your own, saying something like, “Boy, sure must be nice to get up every day and have everything done for you, and not have to worry about work, and bills, and running the house, and saving for college and everything else.”
As we get older, our responsibilities get greater. It’s a simple fact of life. Whether or not you have children, whether or not your children are young or old, whether or not your parents are still alive, we all have crosses to bear. At times, the weight of these crosses can seem suffocating. Often there are so many things that all seem important, so many things that are all vying for our attention, that we can’t focus, can’t think, can’t breathe. More often than not we don’t have time to be envious of the carefree lives that young children enjoy because we’re so caught up trying to catch up.
We each know what our crosses are. There’s no pretending they don’t exist, no burying our heads in the sand. Deep down we hear the words from Luke’s Gospel: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” Or maybe we hear, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
So we, like Christ, take up our crosses. We pray for strength and resolve, and we do the best we can. And there are times when we stumble and fall. It would be easy to just lay there, exhausted, but we know that we can’t. So we get up and shoulder our cross again and keep going. And maybe we fall again. But we know we can’t quit. We get back up.
It is often said that God does not give us a cross so heavy that we cannot bear it, because He knows the limits we each have. But what is not typically mentioned in this common saying is that God sometimes does give us a cross so heavy that we cannot bear it alone. Too often we are so focused on our crosses that we cannot see the help others are offering. Too often out of foolish pride we refuse the help of others. Too often we’re so concerned with our own crosses that we forget that there are other people who’s crosses might be too much for them to bear and that God needs us to carry their cross for them. When you help carry the cross of another, you are carrying the cross of Jesus, for “Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers, you did for me.” Is there someone you know who’s cross is so heavy that God needs you to carry it for them? Is God calling you to be Simon of Cyrene for someone else?
Let us never forget that Jesus had help carrying His cross, the cross He carried for all of us. Jesus will never let us carry our crosses alone, because the weight of His cross was the weight of all of our sins, all of our temptations, all of our troubles and worries, all of our brokenness, all of our addictions, all of our failures and feelings of self-doubt. We are not meant to carry the weight of those things alone. No one is. That is why Jesus was sent.
The cross of Jesus Christ is freedom. It is the joy and pure delight of a child at play. Never forget that He is there to carry your cross, just as we, His disciples, are all called to help carry the crosses of others. So get up. Pick up your cross and the cross of your neighbor. And follow Jesus. And do so with a joyful heart because you know that you are not alone.