Self-destruction can be good or bad…it depends on you!
I’d like to address two motivations for self-destruction. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging anyone to consider suicide. I’ve considered it many times, and finally lived to realize what a disastrous, wasteful, sad and selfish decision that could have been. God brought me into the world for a purpose: I don’t have the right to deny his purpose.
The first motivation to self-destruct is a godly one. The second is of our own making, from our own psyche, our own way of thinking.
To an unbelieving world anything but self-promotion seems antithetical to any concept of a loving God, and even some professing Christians reject the notion that God would expect, require or wish for our diminishing or demise. They’re sure that a loving God would be perpetually looking for ways to lift all people up the ladder of success and happiness in whatever their hearts desire in life. They haven’t yet learned that God is God and we aren’t, and they haven’t yet considered that God may have a rather different set of plans and goals than we do.
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? (Luke 9:23-25 ESV).
When Jesus encouraged his followers to lose their lives he wasn’t suggesting suicide, or that they go out and murder someone so as to incur lethal retribution as a way of gaining instant entrance to heaven. Instead he was seeking, or rather requiring a hand-over of our entire will to him. He wants us to deny self, to destroy our natural inclination to follow our own selfish ambitions rather than his will for our lives. This self-denial, this destruction of self affects many day-to day decisions, but can extend even to the point of death. Over the centuries, millions of believers have been killed for their faith and for refusing to deny their God and savior, and many are still dying today around the world.
Jesus wanted to show that living in his eternal truth is infinitely more valuable than getting our own way in this temporal world.
The second motivation for self-destruction is that which is entirely negative and of human origin. It brings no glory to God, and in the long run brings none to us either.
The self-destruction which is of human origin is often very apparent during our lifetimes. Certainly some people, including some unbelievers, are self-sufficient and far more worldly-wise than I’ve ever been and manage their lives quite successfully. They avoid their own self-destruct potential in this world to the extent that they make sensible decisions and take care of themselves. But ignoring God for a lifetime effectively brings an end to any apparent success upon their physical death: ironically, successful independence from God is a form of self-destruction.
However, the majority of us seem to be incapable of living for long without finding ourselves in some sort of mess of our own making. We bring trouble upon ourselves and inflict it on others through our choices, our selfishness and the natural foolishness we’re born with. I’m not pointing a finger at anyone here, and I’m not being”judgmental”: a judge sends a man to prison as the natural and rightful punishment for something he’s done wrong. We all need to be aware of our failings.
The first couple of decades of my life were largely disastrous in many ways. Looking back I can’t help seeing myself as being on some sort of self-destruct mission. And while, as I explained recently, I don’t let my past command my present or future, I’m frequently fascinated over my own severe failings early on in life. What happened to me? Why did I make so many terrible choices? Why did I blow so many great opportunities? Why did I make no effort to make the most of my life? Why did I waste so many perfect situations, and why did I allow and even encourage so many wonderful to people slip away from me?
I suppose a psychologist would have some interesting answers. I can formulate several myself: I was neglected by my absent earthly father who was a workaholic; I was teased endlessly by older siblings and their mates because of my red hair, freckles and shyness, so that I felt worthless by the time I was heading into puberty; I was not taught how to make wise decisions; I was rejected by a girl I became far too attached to and to whom I had foolishly looked for my self worth and meaning in life. We were bad for each other because we were both so selfish and damaged.
However, there’s good news for all of us who’ve wrecked our own lives. Thanks be to God, to use the phrase Paul so often used, because we really do have a “Counselor” in the Holy Spirit: a caring, loving, all-wise guide who comes to minister to each person who puts his or her trust in God and his son Jesus Christ.
I can’t say I became instantly wise when I became a Christian, and I can’t say that I never “blew it” again: we all struggle to assert our will over God’s will from time to time. But there certainly was a rapid and substantial change in my way of thinking and reasoning. The direction of my life was altered permanently. I stopped making one huge blunder and mess of my life after another. The Word of God, as I’ve said, really did become a lamp to my feet, and yes, God did take me out of “the miry clay” and put my feet on solid ground. There is invaluable truth, light and salvation in so many ways within the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I say that we have a purpose in life, I don’t necessarily mean that we’re all destined to become successful evangelists or missionaries, I mean that God has us here to glorify Him, right where we are, in ways we may not even be aware of this side of heaven.
I was impressed recently by a quote I found in a history book. They’re the words of a conqueror, yes, but somehow applicable to me, and, I believe, to all who are in Jesus Christ or who will be one day. :
“Destiny urges me to a goal of which I am ignorant. Until that goal…I am invulnerable…”
(Maxims of Napoleon).
After all, aren’t we all “conquerors” in Jesus Christ? That’s a rhetorical question…we are.
Back in those dark days, when I felt so alone, so rejected and so aimless and hopeless, God was at work in my life. And on the night I cried out, “God, help me!” he was listening, and helping. And when my mind and heart were finally ready to surrender to his Lordship, he knew it, because he had brought me to that point.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1-7 ESV).