Matthew 16 reads: 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it. 26 For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each according to what he has done. 28 Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
Two words that have been on my mind constantly: deny yourself. Jesus taught that to be His disciple, you must reject the natural inclination toward selfishness. Self-denial is the willingness to deny oneself possessions or status, to grow in holiness and commitment to God. We are commanded to give up our earthly desires and submit to God’s will, not because the path to Heaven is earned through this, but because we acknowledge that He is Lord and we are not. Jesus changes everything and this means understanding that He is the center of our lives. I know this. I’ve heard this in church sermons, but now that this applies to me, I do not want to do this. God, do I really have to deny myself?
God’s will is not always clear. Recently I have been struggling to understand the role engineering serves in my life. Why am I working in research? How did I end up with an amazing job? Is this all a part of Your Will, O’Lord? What happens next? Since July, I found myself working at the place I have always wanted to work. It is the type of situation you would expect to find in your typical feel-good movie. I got the dream job without any sort of rhyme or reason. It just so happened. Picture perfect and way too good to be true it seemed.
Since then, I’ve experienced a variety of emotions regarding work. From feeling like I do not belong because I am the only person not pursuing my masters or doctorate, to the awe from seeing robotic ankles help amputees, to the frustration from the extra hour-long commute that appears due to “moderate rain”, and the joy from seeing a stroke patient slowly heal. It has been an exciting seven months. I have grown a lot in my career and the best part is I deeply enjoy my job. The thought of God’s will has come up as I wonder what is next. Am I to do this forever or am I called somewhere else? If God were to call me somewhere else, how would I feel?
Scared. Resentful. Confused. Hesitant. Upset. These are the candid feelings. I can love God and put my trust in God while haScared. Resentful. Confused. Hesitant. Upset. These are my candid feelings. I can love God and put my trust in God while having moments or maybe more accurately “episodes” of doubt. I do not want to have to deny myself, Jesus. Maybe to the reader, you’re confused as to why I would even ask such a thing, and all I will say is big decisions are needing to be made moving forward. I ask that you pray over my husband and me as we chase God’s will, even when it hurts and as it hurts.
In this season, I have hit a major low. The commute to and from work has become foggy, as I sometimes do not even remember the drive, simply the act of starting and stopping the car. I appear more forgetful at work yet thankful for the grace my coworkers show me. Writing, podcasting, and doing things that I used to love now feel more like a chore. I feel emotionally numb like a conglomeration of cells walking on this earth without purpose, hope, or identity. I feel lost and lonely. God, I don’t know what to do. I like how things are. I do not want to have to change.
Friend, you are not alone. It is quite ironic how in this season where we are called to be joyful, getting out of bed can be the most difficult task. You are not alone. I feel it too. Though some Christians may still try to downplay it, we are not immune to seasonal depression. We experience sadness and doubt not because our God is not that good but because we have feelings that change as the seasons do. Yet even with our rollercoaster of emotions, He remains good regardless.
There is a particular verse that has continuously appeared within the past few days. Now, this could be a sign from God or merely a coincidence, either way, it is from God’s Word, and it is John 16:33 which reads, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” These were the closing remarks Jesus gave to His disciples, before His departure. I am reminded that even when it hurts and as I hurt, the Christian worldview offers hope and His name is Jesus That is everything.
The Christian worldview says that we have a purpose because we are created intentionally by the Creator. The Christian worldview says that we have worth in Christ alone. The Christian worldview says that we are loved unconditionally by our Lord. The Christian worldview promises that we will suffer at times, but we are reminded that Jesus is our hope, strength, and peace. Even when I hurt and as I hurt, I know that God is for me. Not in the way that I am promised to get everything I want, do not be fooled, but that I can trust that He knows better. I can trust that the all-knowing and all-loving Jesus is for me. That is why I chase after God’s will regardless. This is why I choose to deny myself even when I truly do not feel like denying myself. Jesus offers hope.
And, that’s not to say that knowing these things makes the pain more bearable or the anxiety lessen, but that means when I am feeling these things, I can fill myself with His truth. Even when I struggle to trust God, I can look back at my life and the people in the Bible and see He is trustworthy. Even when I question His ways, I can be reminded that His ways are higher than my ways because He knows more. He sees it all, whereas I do not. This is the same God who performed miracles after all.
In this life, I am guaranteed to suffer, but my hope is in Jesus, the One who was born in a manger 2000 years ago. The world was dark, and the Light of the world came to earth. The One who was there from the beginning and the One who would fulfill the messianic prophecies. The One who would be despised by men. The One who would be pierced because of our rebellion. The One who would declare that He is the way, the truth, and the life. The One who we put our faith in because He is Lord. This is why we celebrate Christmas. Even when it hurts and as it hurts, Jesus is my hope. This is why I chase God’s will regardless. Jesus is just that good.
The Nativity of the Messiah: The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband, Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. And he named him Jesus. Matthew 1:18-24