For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Mark 8:35-37
Last weekend didn’t go as expected.
It started well. On Friday afternoon, I went to Chewacla State Park with my friend Marisha, her daughter Makenzie, and our little friend Lexie. It was a beautiful autumn day, and we had a wonderful time together.
But then everything else I had planned for Friday night and Saturday fell through — two sets of people coming over for dinner and a women’s get together. My spirits plummeted. I knew it shouldn’t be a big deal, but I couldn’t help but feel down.
So I was wrestling with this, but then I thought, “Well, I can have Saturday with my husband. That will be great! We haven’t had a Saturday together in awhile.” I started thinking of how we could ride our bikes and go to coffee. Then we could run errands and get caught up on some things we need to get done. Wonderful!
Well, on Saturday morning, my husband dropped the bombshell. “I want to go door knocking today,” he said adamantly, out of the blue. I wanted to cry. I didn’t feel like I had the emotional energy to go up and knock on the doors of strangers. This was something I needed to pray about days in advance so I could get strength to do it. I didn’t have to go with him, but then I would have felt like a spiritual slug and a selfish wife if I didn’t.
To make the story short, after awhile, the Spirit helped me get on board with this, and Ken and I went out in the cold grey afternoon for an hour or so and met some great people. In the end we were very glad we pushed through.
What really got me, though, was what I realized when I was praying through my prayer list the following morning. The second request on my list is for my husband’s evangelism. I’ve started praying specific things for my husband that he’s mentioned to me, and that is one area he wants to grow in.
So that means that God was answering my prayer, and I didn’t even see it! Instead, I wanted to oppose it. Oh boy. It makes me laugh and shake my head.
Last weekend was a great illustration of the root character weaknesses that God has been revealing in me — the need to control, and the need for personal affirmation (i.e. glory hogging). It was so hard for me when things didn’t go according to plan. And it was hard when I thought I wouldn’t be able to accomplish things, because doing things makes me feel important and valued. It assuages my insecurity.
I’m declaring smackdown on these weaknesses! Here’s the verse that has been helping so much: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt 10:28
Do you know what brought that verse to my attention? It was quoted by Max Lucado in response to the Texas shooting. Lucado could have said a lot of things to help us deal with such a horrific event. But instead, he got to the root of the matter. We aren’t to fear the evil outside.
We’re to fear what will happen if we don’t deal with the evil inside.
I have a lot of inappropriate fear. I fear that I will do the wrong thing today. I fear that I did the wrong thing yesterday. I fear that things aren’t going as they should. I fear that something bad will happen and mess everything up.
And what is appropriate fear? It’s to fear the things that are destroying me on the inside. And those things are the need for control and the need for affirmation. Or in Biblical terms, they’re pride and more pride, with a side of unbelief.
So all of this leads up to today’s passage from Mark, and how Jesus said, “Those who want to save their life will lose it. but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” My heart is so convicted to realize that my efforts to control, so I can “save my life,” are having the opposite effect. They’re causing me to lose my life, my soul! I keep trying to figure out how I can fix what seems to be going wrong. Doing that is hurting instead of helping! My way of operating is innately destructive.
Now I’ve started to say, “No” to my deep craving for stability, and instead plunge myself into the goodness that is God. I’m looking to him, not myself. I ‘m losing my life a thousand times a day, to save it.
When Jesus said these words, he was dealing with people who didn’t get it. They were worried about bread. They told him he shouldn’t suffer. In this passage, he was trying to key them in on what they really needed — to have a purity of heart and singleness of mind. To know that the only thing that matters is the soul.
Because it’s the double mindedness that drives us crazy. James wrote, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8b ) And he explained what this can look like: “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there there is disorder and every kind of evil. .” (James 3:16)
If our desires are for anything else, we end up like I was this weekend, feeling disordered, emotional, confused and fearful.
Having a singleness of focus will see us through the troubled waters of our days.
Learning to be single minded has been like balm for me. I can feel healing in the places I’ve inadvertently been damaging.
Here are some ways I’m working on being constructive, instead of destructive. Perhaps they will be balm to your soul, as well.
- Repeating passages over and over to myself that remind me what my inner state should be, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc.” (Phil 4:8) and, “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, etc.” (Gal 5:22)
- Praising God throughout the day, which is much more appropriate than micromanaging him!
- Picturing myself, like the elders in Revelation 4:10, laying my crown at the feet of Jesus.
- Picturing myself going to God and drawing from his well of goodness, rather than giving into my desires for control and affirmation.