The Kind of Dying We Should Wish For

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The Kind of Dying We Should Wish For

Making his little voice as gruff as possible, my pint-size four-year-old called out, “Who are you that you come to fight with me?” This “scary” Goliath, donning an empty Lego bucket as a helmet and waving a cheerleading baton as a sword, bellowed to his sister who played the part of the little boy David. She swung a lime-green jump rope as a sling and shouted back, “I come to you in the name of the Living God!” The jump rope snapped and Goliath came crashing down.

With our family room as the theater, my kids acted out the story of David and Goliath countless times. They knew the lines by heart from Sunday School lessons and animated Bible videos. They took turns playing the two characters, but the favorite role by far was David. David was the winner, the victor, the champion. Neither kid wanted to play the loser, until…

One day they coaxed Dad into playing the role of Goliath. At 6’2” he towered over their child bodies—a true giant. A good sport, my husband jammed the empty Lego bucket halfway onto his head and angrily waved the sword baton. One of the kids snapped the jump rope sling—and then the fun began. Goliath clutched his heart and moaned. He stumbled back and cried out. He fell to the ground and kicked his legs. He rolled side-to-side and wailed. After a full minute of dying, Goliath finally went limp. The kids roared in victory.

After witnessing this Jim Carey-style death scene, the kids now fought over who got to play Goliath. With every performance, they hammed up the death scene just like Dad. Suddenly death had an allure.

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<strong>A Spiritual Death Scene</strong>

A Spiritual Death Scene

Spiritually, I see myself in the Bible drama my children played out in our family room. I want the role of the winner, the victor, the champion. I don’t want to die.

And yet, this is exactly what Christ calls me to do. Jesus said:

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 NLT)

Jesus spoke these words to His disciples as a way of warning them that following Him might mean physical death. He had just informed them of His impending death and now told them to prepare themselves for the same kind of treatment.

But we can also understand Jesus’ words in a spiritual sense. Following Jesus means I may need to die to my selfish desires. I may need to kill my pride, bump off my own agenda, and assassinate my need to control and manage my life.

At first glance, this kind of dying has no allure. Like my children when they first began their David and Goliath dramas, I don’t fight for the chance to die. 

In my journey with Jesus, He has often pointed out an ambition or attitude that needed to die. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a single time where I immediately agreed with Him. Instead, I tend to argue, plead, and offer compromises. I take the role of the defense attorney and fight for the thing I so desperately want.

A Goliath in My Soul

Recently I’ve felt God tugging on my soul, asking me to kill off a Goliath residing there. God whispers, urging me to surrender something that’s been a part of me for a long time. I want to ignore Christ’s instruction to “give up my life.” But God’s persistent prodding sends me back to those verses in Luke. There I discover in my study Bible’s notes that Jesus spoke the phrase “whoever loses his life for me” more than any other—six times in four gospels. It must be important. So I reluctantly ask God, “What needs to die?” 

And I begin to realize: I need to kill off my idea of the perfect life. God gently asks me to change my paradigm of contentment. And this requires a long, drawn-out death scene.

You see, I always thought satisfaction depended on getting what I wanted. A video played in my mind of what a perfect life should look like—marriage, kids, nice house, friends, success—and I thought I couldn’t have happiness if any of those elements were edited out. Thankfully, God has included many of these scenes in the feature film of my life. But just when I deem the movie perfect, God always seems to make a cut I don’t like. I have a wonderful family, but my son now lives 350 miles away and my daughter moved half-way around the world. Wonderful friends graced my life, but then moved two states away. I enjoy my job, but success always seems just out of reach. Because I couldn’t attain my ideal life, I never had contentment.

The Goliath in my soul shouted out, “You deserve more. Don’t rest until you have complete satisfaction.”

At first, I agreed with this foe and tried using weapons of the world to gain what I wanted. I read productivity books and made five-year plans. I signed up for classes and joined networking groups. I worked harder and longer. When that didn’t work, I fought against God instead of the giant, confronting Him with my complaints. I hurled up prayers that explained how to arrange my life optimally. I flung up demands instead of requests.

God patiently listened. He tried to remind me that true contentment doesn’t look like a perfect life. He explained that He could give a type of satisfaction that didn’t depend on having every item on my wish list checked off. He pointed out the apostle Paul who said, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11 NLT).

But I didn’t listen. The giant in my soul wouldn’t die. Dissatisfaction still kicked its feet and rolled around. It moaned loudly enough to get my attention.

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A sad woman sitting on the floor, The universal virus of sin

A Weapon against Discontentment

Finally, a quote by Saint Augustine changed my perspective. 

“The whole life of the good Christian is a holy longing.” 

It made me wonder: What if complete contentment isn’t possible in the here and now? What if my unmet desires are a normal part of life in a broken world?

Time in God’s Word led me to King Solomon’s thoughts on these questions. He wrote that God “has planted eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT). This informs me that God created us for heaven, not for this broken world. I can’t expect this current existence to satisfy my heart. Longing for more is the normal state of one who knows Jesus and realizes much more awaits her.  

This is my new missile against discontent. Whenever dissatisfaction starts to roll around in my mind again, I remember the Christian life is a life of longing. A life of yearning for One we haven’t seen. A life of aching for a place we haven’t settled in. 

Strangely, this weapon of holy dissatisfaction can critically wound my persistent discontent. Somehow, realizing that I will never feel like I have enough in this world, because enough simply isn’t possible here, helps me live in faith. I can accept the ache in my heart as a sign that God has something greater than I can imagine in store for me.

Savoring the Life He Has Given

Of course, the giant of discontent never completely dies. Watching a happy extended-family scene in a movie or seeing a Facebook post about someone else’s success can make it roar to life again. But I’m beginning to realize that God asks me to kill my idea of satisfaction because my attitude prevents me from savoring the life He has given. In one of the other six places that Jesus talks about dying to self, He says, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it” (Matthew 10:39 NLT emphasis added). I can’t find the real, abundant life God has for me if I’m clinging, grasping, or clutching onto a counterfeit. Clenching onto my idea of a perfect life only frustrates me. Reserving happiness for some mythical time when I have everything I want merely cripples my joy. 

I can’t guarantee that the next time God points out a Goliath in my soul that needs to die, that I won’t perform a long, drawn-out death scene. But I can begin to give up my need to control my life’s plotline because then I can open myself to God’s amazing story. I can assassinate the need to be big and successful because I know it’s better to live small, dependent on the Father’s grace. 

I’m slowly learning the allure of dying. The kind of death Jesus asks of me means slaying my need to have “enough” in this world. But it also means living with a holy longing that gives a reassurance of a life with the God who blesses me with love, grace, and a promise of more than I can ever imagine.

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Sharla Fritz is a Christian author and speaker who weaves honest and humorous stories into life-changing Bible study. Author of Enough for Now: Unpacking God’s Sufficiency, Sharla writes about God’s transforming grace. Sharla lives in the Chicago suburbs with her amusing pastor husband. Connect with Sharla at www.sharlafritz.com