I’m lying here in my disheveled bed at 5am with my sleepless baby, awake yet again when my body craves sleep like oxygen, and I think I’m finally starting to understand what Jesus meant when He said “Whoever finds his life will lose its and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it,” Matthew 10:39.
He not just talking about physical death here. There are lots of ways to lose your life.
Take the Jews in the Holocaust for example. It was a slow death for them. Death of their livelihoods when their right to own businesses was stripped from them. Death to their social status and dignity when they were hustled into ghettos like cattle and forced to wear the yellow stars. Death to their sense of security when neighbors were stolen off into the night. And death to their souls when their physical bodies were tortured by starvation, disease, nakedness and cold. Physical death came as a relief to many who had endured so much.
The Holocaust may seem like an anomaly, but we experience tiny deaths like this all the time.
Death to our comfort when the baby wakes up yet again even though she’s slept through the night before. Death to our convenience when the husband has to leave on a work trip the same time our children fall sick again. Death to our security when yet another friend faces cancer or a miscarriage or a child stricken by an autism diagnosis.
Death comes in tiny forms every day – another gray hair, another lost temper at our children, another argument with our spouse, another disappointment to our dreams of a happy life.
But these are the right kinds of deaths, Jesus says. Lose your life here on earth, He says. Let it die. Because this life is not meant to be your paradise.
It hurts doesn’t it? Every day, we wake up in the morning and with blind faith, hope that today we will find the happiness that sticks around a little longer; the relief from our fears and insecurities; the final comforts in our grief. Yet our hope is fixed in all the wrong places.
We must learn to see as Jesus sees: that living comes from dying. We cannot experience the life He has to give us while we are still grasping at the empty promises of life here on earth. We aren’t going to find it here.
So we must first die to that false hope, that idolatrous promise, and then in our desperation, we look up, we cry out, and then, only then, does His peace begin to settle our souls. Then and only then do we taste the sweet nectar of His Presence which cannot be taken away from us, no matter what happens to us circumstantially. It is only in our dying that we taste of the life to come.
But you must turn to Him and believe His promises. You must receive His gift of grace in forgiveness of your divine trespasses. You cannot receive His life-goodness without first dying to your own self-sufficiency.
“In this world you will have trouble,” He says. If you haven’t encountered that reality yet, you will. Whether it be your trouble or someone you love who suffers, this world is fraught with it.
But “take heart,” He says. “I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).
He has died the ultimate death so that you can actually one day experience the life you were meant to have: a world where His presence is your oxygen and you don’t have to get it by dying anymore.