Death to Self

I find it hard sometimes to trust God. I am much more inclined to take matters into my own hands and think somehow I can fix what’s wrong with the world - that I know best. I know better. I have been taught better. But I must learn it again and again. And it might just be a matter of life and death this time.

Trust in God requires death to self. That is the lesson of the day for me. As I trust God and lay down my will, my stubbornness, my desire for control, a space is created in me for God’s inflowing of love into my life. Death to self is submitting all my desires to God, letting him take charge of the outcomes. New space is opened up for God to live in me and be with me, and to achieve what is truly best for me, and for others around me.

The more I trust and die to my own desires, the more natural it becomes. As God’s love pours into me, I don’t just act in more loving ways – I become a more loving person. Love is defined as an intentional, sympathetic response to others to promote overall well-being, (Thomas Oord, The Science of Love). Dallas Willard adds that love is a condition out of which actions of a certain type emerge. Its orientation is toward life as a whole. It dwells on good wherever it may be found and supports it in action.

Paul challenges us in Ephesians 5:1 to follow God’s example and walk in the way of love, “just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Christ’s walk of love cost him his life. Jesus’ suffering and physical death on the cross became the ultimate expression and example of death to self.

Death to self and the resulting inflow of agape love produces right and pure action – out of this life without lack, of generosity and grace, grows an ever-increasing freedom to serve others. From Jesus’ perspective, there is no greater calling that to be a servant – to be engaged in caring for the welfare of others. The pandemic we are in the midst of calls us to a new level of death to self, of selfless love, and of care for the welfare of others. Every day we are invited and called to practice death to self. And doing so might save a life. And it might be our own. Each time you stay home when you would rather be with friends, the fragrance of your sacrifice wafts heavenward. Every time you wear a mask in public or wait in line to enter a store, or watch one more week of on line church, a sweet perfume fills the air and is lifted to the throne of grace.

As you grow in your capacity to love, something is going to happen to you: you will find that you have great joy! Joy in turn will increase your capacity to love, rending you capable of loving even your enemies. So today, let go of your self will. Trust in God alone. Put aside your desires and tight grip and die to self. Receive the inflow of love that God is just waiting to bestow on you. Find true freedom and joy in even the smallest acts of kindness and selflessness, and in doing so, you might just save someone’s life!