"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.... For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness." The Cross is, indeed, the power of God, because God is love--and therefore it is obvious that love is the most powerful force in the entire created order. For it is by means of the Cross that the love of God is expressed most fully and completely.
This world, however (submerged in the darkness of sin and despair) cannot endure the light of such a pure and unadulterated love--a love that offers itself unconditionally as an unblemished sacrifice for the sake of us men and our salvation, on behalf of all, and for all. Herein lies the very essence of our Faith: that we might proclaim with the Holy Apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." In other words, our false ego must be put to death that we might rise with Christ into a life eternal and incorruptible.
It is, nevertheless, much easier by far to seek after signs and miracles, while regarding the truly radical message of the Cross to be sheer folly. In a society that encourages us in every way to strive above all else for an elusive "happiness," for so-called "self-fulfillment," the continuous acquisition of material possessions, and deliverance at any cost from all manner of pain and suffering... why should anyone in his right mind voluntarily choose the path of martyrdom? Yet it is precisely martyrdom (bearing bold witness to Christ) that our Lord demands of his true disciples: that we deny ourselves, take up our cross... and follow Him.
Consider the holy martyrs of old, who made wise commerce, trading their own blood in exchange for the eternal good things God has in store for those who love Him: most of us nowadays can barely conceive of how they were able endure the cruel tortures and deprivations we read about in the lives of the saints... while we ourselves are likely to scream bloody murder of we so much as stub our little toe!
What we perhaps fail to understand is that it was through the grace of God--that is, His abundant love poured into the hearts of the faithful believers--that they could consider their temporal sufferings to be of no consequence compared to the heavenly rewards that awaited them. Besides... a person consumed by the fire of divine love no longer counts the cost, but would rather die a thousand deaths for Christ than to forsake Him.
It would, of course, be presumptuous to think that we feeble Christians of these latter days might be capable of enduring the same degree of pain and suffering as did the martyrs of old. Nevertheless, through the power of the Cross and the love that God bestows into our hearts, we might indeed endure unto the end whatever measure of martyrdom God has appointed us for the sake of our salvation. Nor will God ever require us to take upon ourselves a burden greater than we can endure.