The Paradox Of Life
[Jesus said] “ whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35
Die To Live. It’s the ultimate paradox of life. All of us want the most out of life. We want our lives to count for something, we want to feel that we’re living life to the max each day at home and at work. Most of us grab onto our lives and hold on as tightly as we can in our quest to live fully, but Jesus offers a different way. Instead of grabbing on, we need to let go. Instead of clinging to our rights, we need to give them up. Instead of demanding our way we must abdicate the throne to the One who knows far more than we do.
The paradox principal can be illustrated this way: if you hold sand in both hands you have to squeeze the sand to keep it in place. The harder you squeeze, though, the more sand shifts and drops from your hands. And while you’re holding that sand, you can’t take a gift of gold that someone wants to give you. You’ve “saved” the sand by clinging to it, but you’ve missed out on a far greater thrill.
The question each of us must answer is this: Is the life Christ offers more valuable than the life I can make on my own? If not, then we need to grasp all we can while we can. But if the abundant life Jesus offers is richer, deeper, and more thrilling than any other, we can let go of what we have to receive what we really want. And we make that evaluation a hundred times a day.
“ He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose”.
It’s not easy letting go of familiar things. And we all feel the constant pressure to cling to the security of the of what we can hold in our hands. Many times our security is in our jobs or careers, our possessions or positions, our daily routines and rituals. What we’ve experienced with the pandemic has been an interruption to most our our normal routines and that has created anxiety and fear and even a sense of loss. It seems the harder we try to hold on to the past, the less there is to hold on to. Ziglar uses sand in his illustration, I’d use jello. Jello is a funny thing. You can hold it in your open hand but if in fear you try to grasp it, the more you squeeze the more you lose. Life is the same way. The harder we try to hold on to life, the less of quality of life we have. Consider a miser. Misers are so scared they will become poor that they hold so hard to their money that they can’t enjoy any of its benefits. They go through life in want and misery thinking that they can find pleasure and security in money. All the while life passes them by and they merely exist without living.
I grew up near an old miser who accumulated a lot of money but never enjoyed any of it. It was one of the saddest pictures I’ve ever seen. All his life he did without. He wore rags, only used minimal electricity, usually a single bulb in a single room and to my knowledge never took a vacation. What a sad life to have passed through without enjoying anything. After his death his children bickered over his possessions and though they might have enjoyed the benefits, he went to his grave without having the joy of using what he had.
God in His creation placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with provisions they were to enjoy. And God has placed us in this world to enjoy all the things He has blessed us with but He never intended that they were to become our masters. All that He has blessed us with is for our benefit but when they become our security or our master we’ve missed His intention.
Releasing our lives and possessions to God is an act of trust. Do we truly believe that God has the best plans for us? Do we believe that His blessings are incomparable to anything we could gain in this world on our own? Can we really trust God with our lives and our futures? Could it be that God brings us to the “giving up” place because He wishes to make room for new blessings. We speak often of receiving blessings but if we’re still holding on to everything how will we have any room for new blessings? Perhaps one of the reasons we feel unfulfilled is that we are holding on to things beyond their shelf life.
The Israelites on their journey through the wilderness had to learn the lesson of trusting God for fresh manna daily. There were those who gathered extra just in case God didn’t provide for them the next day. When the went to the basket to get yesterdays manna, it was rotten and full of worms and useless. They learned to gather fresh manna everyday just for that day. Sometimes we hold on to yesterday’s experiences with God or yesterday’s blessings from God as though we will never have another experience or blessing. We can’t seem to have fresh encounters or fresh provision because we are so focused on what happened yesterday. We often fear we will lose the value of our rituals and observances but if they have become nothing more that a hollow repetition without meaning, we have lost them any way. Every time we meet with God, He has new blessings for us, new revelations for us and a new and living way.
Giving up our “lives” means giving up in surrender to God. Letting go our hold on how we want life to be and trusting God to guide and provide is the greatest liberty we can know. The paradox is that the more we “lose” the more we gain. The more we try to squeeze the jello, the less we have. The more we try to force life to comply with our wishes, the less joy we experience. When we choose to release control of our lives to the eternal God who has always been and will always be, we experience true peace and contentment for we know the even if things aren’t what we wish right now that God is somehow working everything for our good. When we choose to take matters into our own hands we often find the more we make them ours the worse they become. When we bring all things to God and release them to His care, we are amazed at how He seems to work them out.
I’ll leave you with an old cliché: “Let go and let God.” You’ll be glad you did!
Dr. John Thompson