“Even before the Savior’s Crucifixion, the image of “taking up one’s cross” would have been a familiar and perhaps troubling one for the disciples. Crucifixion was a common means of execution in the Roman Empire, and its victims were made to carry their own crossbeams to the place of execution. By using this imagery, the Savior vividly taught His disciples what they must be ready for and called upon them to follow His example by submitting to the will of the Father in their lives.” (New Testament Student Manual; https://www.lds.org/manual/new-testament-student-manual/introduction-to-mark/chapter-13?lang=eng#title12)
In this one statement, Jesus made it clear that to follow Him would require sacrifice, and maybe even physical death. Being one of His disciples wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.
A cross signified death, and a cruel and ignoble death at that. It wasn’t something that any human would willingly submit to or ever volunteer for, yet the Savior made it clear that He would ask every one of His followers to do just that, but in a symbolic way. Although some will be required to die because of their discipleship, most will be required to give their life in a different way.
To take up one’s cross daily would mean to symbolically accept the death of our “self”, as we give our life in service to others. We have to let our selfishness and self-interest die in order to let our higher nature thrive. Ego has to give way to charity, self-absorption has to be eradicated bit by bit, and love has to overcome pride. We must follow our Savior’s example of serving, giving, teaching, and loving.
President Ezra Taft Benson gave some examples of ways we can lose our lives in service: “Opportunities to lose oneself for the good of others present themselves daily: the mother who serves her children’s needs; the father who gives his time for their instruction; parents who give up worldly pleasure for quality home life; children who care for their aged parents; …time for compassionate service; giving comfort to those who need strength; serving with diligence in Church callings; community and public service in the interest of preserving our freedoms; financial donations for tithes, fast offerings, support of missionaries, welfare, building and temple projects. Truly, the day of sacrifice is not past”
There are plenty of opportunities to lose our life daily. We just need to open our eyes and actively look for those occasions.
The amazing thing about losing one’s life for Jesus is that He will recompense us for every sacrifice we make, in ways that we cannot imagine.
President Ezra Taft Benson described what happens in the lives of those who “lose their lives” for the Savior: “Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 20).