And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
(Luke 9:23 KJV)
We will do anything to avoid feeling empty. Nobody wants to go to bed at night feeling unfulfilled, no matter what good has happened during the day. We are afraid of emptiness. We make rash decisions to fill voids. We don’t want to acknowledge our brokenness, our mistakes. We’ll do anything to be happy. We’ll do anything to push away hurts. We’ll do anything to forget. Anything.
God works with brokenness and emptiness. These heavy burdens that we are carrying–He wants us to give them to Him. Think about that: God wants you to give your burdens to Him.
In fact, He wants us to give everything to Him.
Because of our fear of emptiness, we try to hold onto things that are not even good for us: Relationships, grudges, memories, anger, habits, false ideas, pride. God wants us to come empty. When we give these things to Him, then He can use us. If we are so full of these things we hold onto, we are leaving no room whatsoever for Him.
When we pursue the things that pull us away from God, we can’t be used by Him. He’d love to work through our lives and give us that breakthrough, the desires of our hearts, but it can’t happen if we continuously walk away from Him. I imagine there are things we have been convicted to let go of, but we are refusing to do so. And God is just waiting for us to make room in our lives to get to the next level.
Imagine giving all your cares to Him–all your desires, concerns–and saying, “Lord, I realize I cannot do this on my own. Do with these things whatever You’d like to, and I will follow You.”
Now that’s an attitude that God can work with. God can do wonders with willingness. If we just lay EVERYTHING down, I imagine that He can create the most beautiful things with that.
This is how I see it:
We are canvases, and over time, we’ve gotten used and worn, and there’s years worth of paint that’s smeared all over us. When we allow God to take us, it’s not that we’re in some flawless condition (because we’re really not)–what’s happening is that we’re surrendering control and allowing Him to cleanse us. Surrendering to Christ is acknowledging that we are filthy–in need of cleansing–that we are sinners, and allowing Him to take care of the mess. The truth that we’ve been running away from is that we are needy, we are weak, we are not capable on our own. But God can chisel away the layers of muck that we have been drowning in so that we are clean, and from then, He can paint the most beautiful masterpiece of our lives for us.
That’s the beauty of it–God can use anyone. Anyone. Anyone. Anyone. He loves everyone. It’s the heart that matters.
It comes down to you:
Are you willing to let go? Are you willing to turn away? Are you willing to let God transform you?
Why are you holding on?
The main idea here is that we are not called to remain as we are. Yes, God loves us. But we cannot live our full purpose on this earth unless we make that first step to empty ourselves. There is shame and guilt in sin. Living in sin, there is fear. Living in sin, there is doubt. Many times we get ourselves into the worst situations. Other times, our situations are not even our fault–it’s just the nature of the world that we live in. The world has fallen, and because of that there is no sense of justice and fairness–there is so much bad that can happen that we have no control of. But remaining stagnant in our nature is where we go wrong.
Jesus instructs those who want to follow Him to deny themselves and to take up their crosses. What does this mean? Taking up your cross encompasses your whole life–it radically changes your entire life, your decisions, your perspective. Why? Taking up your cross means to live fully for Christ. This involves giving Him your burdens, but it also means something greater–that we dedicate our entire lives to Him–every aspect of our lives. Our innermost thoughts. Our actions. Denying ourselves is a daily rejection of our natural, sinful ways–a complete denial, or emptying, of self.
Again this goes back to the truth that we are filthy, in need of a Savior to cleanse us. That we have needs, and that Christ can fill them.
This is the emptiness that God calls us to have. It is not one that is hopeless. It is not one that leaves us awake at night, deep in fear. It is not one that is bound by the troubles of this world.
This is a shedding of our past selves–in which we invite God to come inside and give us life. It is one that gives us security–that if we have accepted Him as Lord and Savior and confessed our sins, we know that we have eternal life in Heaven.
As humans on this earth, we will be filled of something–we will either choose to be filled with God or we will choose not to be. We can make the choice to be filled with life abundantly or we can choose to live in our own understanding that leads to a path of confusion, hurt, and destruction.
We see the decaying state of the world we live in, but we don’t have to choose to be part of that decay. Please don’t let anything get in the way of this understanding. We have all fallen short, and there are consequences for that. But there is an answer. There is a hope. There is contentment–and it is in God.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28 NIV)