This post is also available as a podcast: https://anchor.fm/teague-mckamey/episodes/Just-a-ThoughtRevisited-e1j6nue
In April, I wrote a very brief post entitled, “Just a Thought.” It said: “We do not choose our own suffering. The suffering chosen for us is that which will cause us to give up everything for God
or keep everything for ourselves.”
After reading it, a friend admitted that he bristled at this post but that it was making him think. I shared that the post came out of something personal I was going through, and that I had probably used too broad a brush in my post’s picture of suffering. We had a good discussion about suffering and spiritual growth after that, and I wondered if I should follow up that post with some qualifiers. But as the weeks went by, nothing really came.
This last Saturday, I woke up between 4:00 and 5:00, unable to sleep. My mind wandered to “Just a Thought,” and a recent situation threw new light on it. I began to wonder if “Just a Thought” was really about suffering after all.
Some features of my personality are so fundamental they are what make me “me.” Jesus said, “If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). There are times when who I am will lead me away from Christ. By this I don’t mean anything about me that is bad or sinful. For instance, I tend to be a very focused person. There are times when being focused is not Christ. In such moments I have a choice: deny myself, reject who I fundamentally feel I am, and follow Jesus, or deny Jesus to follow myself. (Also see this post about Luke 9:23-24).
I wish this was as neat and clean as it sounds. But the experience of it is messier. In some areas, I have followed Jesus against the grain of who I am for years, decades even. This is where taking up the cross daily is so important. Following Jesus when everything in me wants to go a different way, when following Him violates my sense of who I am, isn’t just one decision. It is a lifetime of decisions, a lifetime of putting one foot in front of the other. In my experience, this ultimately leads to freedom. But there is suffering on the way, and this brings us back to “Just a Thought.”
This post was probably about self-denial more than suffering. We come to points where we can deny ourselves to follow Jesus or deny Jesus to follow ourselves. If we follow Jesus, we will lose ourselves, and experience suffering in that. But we will find Jesus and renewal. If we follow ourselves and who we are, we will also suffer. But that path doesn’t lead to Jesus or renewal (Matt. 16:25).
I’m not sure any of this is less bristling to hear. Jesus’s call causes me to bristle pretty often. But it does clarify (for me at least) what God is speaking to my heart. If you have anything to add or any bristling to work through, please leave a comment 😊