Death should not be something to fear for one who puts their trust and faith in Jesus. In fact we continually die each day of our Christian lives. God is stripping away from us the very things we have found comfort in rather than finding true comfort in Him.
If that sounds painful, that’s because it is. God is not harming us in this painful process of dying to self each day but he is preparing us, shaping us, and when all else seems contrary, He is loving us.
When I first became a Christian, I did not count the cost of what it means to truly follow Jesus. I loved booze, sex, and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing. I didn’t know I had to give these things up because they were contrary to following Jesus. After all, I was forgiven right? Unfortunately, I can’t say that my testimony consists of a quick fix transformation. In fact, I don’t know of anyone’s testimony that reflects a quick fix transformation. (We’re all in this together.) God slowly stripped the things that comforted me (booze, sex, drugs), which was very painful.
I want to make a distinction here – it is not God inflicting this pain on us, but it is the process of us coming back to Him which is painful. It sort of feels like dying, even though I do not know what it feels like to physically die, I can only imagine the stripping of our false self has to be just as, if not, more painful. I found a lot of comfort in those things, although they were a false comfort, they helped me get past most of the days that seemed to be unbearable. I wasn’t alone though. I could feel God’s hand in this stripping, and at times when I wanted to throw in the towel, I deeply felt His great love for me. Relearning how to do anything, especially trusting, not in your self indulgences, but in Jesus was and still is a very hard thing.
As I read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (one of the first books I read as a Christian), his words “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” (280) resonated with me. Dying to self, is not denying your self. It is dying to the things that have torn and are tearing you away from God. It is the continual pursuit of a loving and intimate relationship with God, even when you would rather find comfort elsewhere.
“The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison of our own false self, and enter by love into union with the Life who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our own souls.”
Thomas Merton (New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 25)
Bio: Henry David Thoreau once said, “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks – who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which [the] word is beautifully derived “from idle people who roved about the country, in the middle ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going “à la sainte terre”, to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer” a Saunterer, a Holy-Lander.” Currently trying to master the art of walking with my wife and son in Fullerton, CA.