I recently had an experience that forced me to die to myself. It was a “Who Moved My Cheese?” type of moment, when I made my wishes known on a matter but was overruled.
In the overall scope of things, this incident was clearly no big deal. But I hadn’t gotten my way, and it hurt. I felt disrespected…disregarded…undervalued.
Yet what hurt the most was realizing I had overreacted, blowing up the whole thing much bigger than it actually was.
Thankfully, God graciously showed me what had happened during this unusual emotional meltdown. The incident that triggered my flood of ugly emotions was relatively minor. But like the tip of an iceberg, it was meant to alert me to the fact that a much BIGGER hunk of the iceberg was still lurking beneath the surface.
You see, the small incident in question had a very strange effect, causing me to experience flashbacks of numerous other times in my life when I had felt rejected or unappreciated. I thought I had long since forgiven and been healed of these past experiences…but some of the wounds apparently remained.
Ouch. It was painful to see the ugly sense of pride and entitlement hiding deep within my heart. But I also was grateful to the Lord for exposing it. I saw that the real issue wasn’t the tip of the iceberg that was in view, but rather the hidden iceberg in my heart.
I surely don’t like dying to myself. None of us do. And in my case, I felt like I had already died to myself enough to last a lifetime! Why did I have to do so again?
At that point, I remembered a time in the 1990s when I was a senior pastor facing a horrific wave of rejection due to a massive church split. It was excruciating to be rejected and lied about by people I loved and had endeavored to pour my life into.
Finally, I reached my limit. I’d had enough.
So one day I told my pastor friend Duane Flemming of my decision to resign. “I don’t need this, Duane. It’s just not fair, and I don’t have to take it anymore.”
Duane is a man of great wisdom, and he listened intently as I went on and on about how I had been mistreated. Finally, he asked me a simple question that still haunts me today:
“So Jim, are you saying you’re enough like Jesus already?”
How could I answer a question like that? Of course I wasn’t enough like Jesus yet. Jesus bore the cross all the way to His death on Calvary, yet I was ready to jettison my cross at the first sign of pain or injustice.
Forgive me, Lord. You’ve helped me see that I’m not entitled to bypass the cross today, just because I died to myself on some occasions in the past.
What about you, my friend? Are you able to relate to my story today? Is there some issue in your life where you are being forced to embrace the cross…die to yourself…and extend forgiveness to those who may not deserve it? Do you find yourself squealing like a pig, just because you aren’t getting your own way?
Amid the trials and disappointments of life, let me encourage you to fix your eyes on “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Yes, I know, you probably have already died to yourself a million times before. But the life a disciple requires dying daily (Luke 9:23, 1 Corinthians 15:31), not just in the distant past. That’s the only way to experience more of Jesus’ resurrection power, after all, and it’s a process that’s not going to change until He returns.