The Bible has a lot of great news for us. Consider John 3:16, for example. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Wonderful! Or consider Matthew 11:28-30. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Such comforting words.
Then take a look at Mark 8:34-35. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” This doesn’t sound like the loving God found in John 3 or the compassionate God found in Matthew 11. This sounds like a harsh, demanding God, one who requires you to die in order to be saved. What’s with that? This does not sound like great news.
The truth is that God is loving and compassionate. He did send his only Son to give us eternal life. He does offer his rest to those who are heavy laden. He has given us his covenant, purpose, and hope. But he has given us these things because he knows we will need them in the suffering that is to come. He uses the picture of taking up our crosses to describe our lives. This is not a pretty picture.
But he also points out that we are coming after him. We are not alone and we don’t have to find the way on our own. We have his promise; we know our purpose; we have been given hope. Because of that, we can consider giving up our lives great news. It means we are fulfilling God’s plan for us. Even when it hurts, God’s plan is good. And his plan doesn’t stop with us losing our lives. That is only the beginning. The end game is for our salvation, always.