Take Up Your Cross

We all seek our happiness in life. So-called happy life should be an overall generic goal of our lives as long as we live in this world on earth. At the end of life, probably all of us would ask ourselves:

Was my life happy?

And if your answer is yes, are you willing to end your life happily? Or, what if your answer is no? What would be your reaction? Would you like another chance to repeat your life to make it a happy ending?

The pursuit of happiness is everyone’s agreeable goal. Even the Declaration of Independence defines that our fundamental human right is to freely pursue joy and live life in a way that makes us happy, as long as we don’t do anything illegal or violate the rights of others.

Often, however, we tend to struggle with the way of pursuing happiness. How do we seek it? How do we define our happy lives from birth to education, career, retirement, and terminal moments?

If I could be born into a wealthy family and country, my life would be happy. My life would be satisfied if I could get a more qualified education. If I could find a more prestigious career, my life would be satisfied. There are many “what if I could and if I were” conditional phrases. We have been focusing on ourselves only.

In this age of materialism and egotism, happy life means a victorious, prosperous, and admirable achievement in this world on earth. Thus, we all get obsessed with the pursuit of success. We study, work, and enjoy hard in our lives because of worldly pursuits. We must grow and achieve something to be someone on earth.

If God gives us anything we wish, then our answer must be, like King Solomon, God-like wisdom to achieve anything. With this divine gift, we can probably achieve anything we want. We can become, like King Solomon, one of the unprecedented achievers on earth. What is a beautiful life!

And yet, in the latter part of life, despite all things we gained, once more like King Solomon, we confess our words of grief, dissatisfaction, and disappointment.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

He thought he had gained everything he wanted. He was supposed to declare the pursuit of happiness completed with his God-given wisdom. What was his happy life?

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Ecclesiastes 1:2

Were all things illusions like a mirage in the desert? Ironically enough, as long as we pursue happy life in the world on earth through our self-indulgence, we can never get out of this desert and confinement. Self is indeed one of the most crucial obstacles in pursuing true happiness. Through ourselves, we deceptively and inevitably pursue false happiness, which is the cause of all suffering in this world on earth. Paradoxically enough, we suffer from our pursuit of happiness.

Self is the denial of Truth. Truth is the denial of self. As you let self-die, you will be reborn in Truth. As you cling to self, Truth will be hidden from you. Do you seek to realize the birth into Truth? There is only one way: Let self-die.

The Way of Peace by James Allen

We believe that if we can have our well-equipped selves, we can achieve the goal of a happy life. Once we get enlightened, can we see supremacy? Once we transform ourselves enough, can we reach the highest point? Our ideal spiritual life can bring us to the heavenly sphere? Can we achieve what we want if we become somebody else suitable for the given condition? God forbid!

We can never be the means to achieve anything. On the contrary, we have been the most critical roadblock and stumble stone on this selfless path.

There is only one way: Let self-die.

We can never escape the selfishness of pursuing false happiness unless we die. That is the path of suffering. Jesus also said:

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 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. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Matthew 16:24-26

What do we have to do for the pursuit of true happiness? Let us deny ourselves and take up our cross. In false happiness, we might gain the whole world, yet we lose our souls with words of grief and disappointment. Moreover, the path to false happiness is full of suffering, yet we are obsessive and deceptively in despair.

So, if we deny ourselves, can we gain a happy life? At least, in such a life without self, there is Truth. There is God. It is not what we achieved there, but our humble realization that God alone is, and He alone loves us. That is why Jesus never forget to say the second part:

Take up your cross.

We let ourselves die. But this death is not in vain at all. We parted on the cross and took up the cross that we were dead. That is the way we follow him alone.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21

That is the pursuit of true happiness, which is already at hand.

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

Philippians 4:4

Image by congerdesign

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