When Life is the Death of You 

Written by Craig Denison


"Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?" Matthew 16:24-26 (The Message)


Every day feels like a struggle to loosen my grip on this life that Jesus calls me to lay down at his feet. The command we find in Matthew 16 may be the most challenging for me in all of Scripture. Jesus says:

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?” Matthew 16:24-26 (The Message)

What a place of trust and commitment to which our Lord calls us. There is no one else we could safely give our lives to. There is no one in this world who cares about us as much as we care about ourselves. All of life teaches us to tighten our grip on what we have, to work to earn all we can for ourselves like everyone else. To come to the place where we can truly and consistently give the keys of this life over to our heavenly Father takes a level of relationship unknown by many. It takes the trust that only comes from a true knowledge of the sacrificial nature and love of an unseen God.

Maybe your experience is like mine. The days I spend time in the presence of this God who knows every hair on my head and loves me enough to lay down his own life, I find enough courage and trust bubbling up from the place of intimacy to gladly lay my life down at his feet. These days are my best days. But unfortunately, they seem to be too infrequent to consistently live a lifestyle of surrender. Soon the cares of the world come rushing in, and I find myself picking back up my life and clutching it with all my might.

To put it simply, I’m discovering that my love of this life can become the death of me. Just as Jesus said, when I love my life I lose it. But when I love him enough to give my life over, I find not just life, but life abundant.

In all of this a process seems to be rising to the surface. When I live in my own strength, my hands naturally grip that which is too heavy to hold. When my eyes are set merely on the things that are seen I take what I can when I can and hold fast to it as long as I can. But, when I set my eyes on a wonderful, trustworthy God not just every once in a while, but every moment I can, my grip naturally loosens in light of his glorious grace.

You see, we weren’t made strong enough to bear all the burdens life gives us. We weren’t made to hold fast to a life in which every good thing we have is actually a gift from our Father of lights (James 1:17). We were made to live in communion with a God so good that he only asks us to carry that which will produce life and life abundant. We have a King so powerful, so present and so capable that we can stop leading ourselves and enjoy the fruits of following a perfect Shepherd.

And the truth is, to know God is to trust God. He is so trustworthy and so faithful that our hearts naturally produce trust and faith in response to spending time with him.

Are you so loving your life today that it’s actually becoming the death of you? Are the cares of this world crowding out any of the joys and pleasures of eternal relationship with a good Father? If so, hand the reins of this life to your capable, trustworthy King. Take time to encounter his abundant goodness, and allow the enjoyment of him to overshadow the weak, shallow pleasures of the world. Experience the freedom that comes from letting God be God that you might carry only that which he gives you.

May you find life today in surrender to the One, True King.