The Death of Self
…And the very proof that God loves you is that He does not spare you, but lays upon you the cross of Jesus Christ. Whatever spiritual knowledge or feelings we may have, they are all a delusion if they do not lead us to the real and constant practice of dying to self. And it is true that we do not die without suffering. Nor is it possible to be considered truly dead while there is any part of us which is yet alive. This spiritual death (which is really a blessing in disguise) is undeniably painful. It cuts “swift and deep into our innermost thoughts and desires with all their parts, exposing us for what we really are.” The great Physician who sees in us what we cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife. He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up. And how it hurts! But we must remember that pain is only felt where there is life, and where there is life is just the place where death is needed. Our Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already dead. Do not misunderstand me: He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life. Don’t expect God to deal with those vulgar, wicked desires which you renounced forever when you gave yourself away to Him. But, He will deal with the parts of you that are still alive. He might even test your faith with restrictions and trials of all kinds.
Should you resist? Certainly not! You must learn to suffer all things! The death of self must be voluntary, and it can only be accomplished as far as you allow. Anyone who resists death and repels its advances shows that he is not willing to die. You must be willing to yield to the will of God whenever He decides to remove from you all of the props on which you have leaned. Sometimes you must give up even your most spiritual friends, if they are props. “What fearest thou, oh thou of little faith?”
Do you fear that He may not be able to supply to you from Himself that help which He may have taken away on the human level? And why does He take human help away, except to supply you from Himself, and to purify you by the painful lesson?
The Discovery and Death of Self
….Though it sounds strange to say it I am rejoicing that God has reduced you to a state of weakness. Your ego can neither be convinced nor forced into submission by any other means: it is always finding secret lines of supply from your own courage; it is always discovering impenetrable retreats in your own cleverness. It was hidden from your eyes while it fed upon the subtle poison of an apparent generosity as you constantly sacrificed yourself for others. But now God has forced it to cry aloud, to come forth into open day and display its excessive jealousy. Oh, how painful, but how beneficial these times of weakness! As long as any self-love is remaining, we are always afraid it will be revealed. But God does not give up as long as the least symptom of it lurks in the innermost recesses of the heart; God pursues it, and by some infinitely merciful blow, forces it into the open. And the sight of the problem then becomes the cure. Self-love, forced into the light, sees itself as it really is in all its deformity and despair and disgrace. And in a moment, the flattering illusions of your whole selfish life are dissipated. God sets before your eyes your idol: self. You look at that spectacle and you cannot turn your eyes away. Nor can you hide the sight from others.
To expose self-love in this way without its mask is the most mortifying punishment that can ever be inflicted. We no longer see self as wise, prudent, polite, composed, and courageous in sacrificing itself for others. It is no longer the old self-love whose diet consisted in the belief that it had need of nothing, and deserved everything. It weeps from the rage that it has wept. It cannot be stilled, and refuses all comfort, because its poison ness character has been detected. It sees itself foolish, rude, and impudent, and is forced to look its own frightful countenance in the face. It says with Job, “For the thing I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me” (Job 3:25). For it is that which it fears most that will be its destruction.
We have no need that God should attack in us that which is lifeless and unresponsive. (It is the living only that must die.) Nothing else matters. So you see why I rejoice in your state of weakness. This is what you needed–to behold a self-love defeated, sensitive, impure, and exposed for what it really is. and now all you have to do is to quietly look at it as it is. The moment you can do this, self will disappear.
You asked for a remedy, that your problems might be cured. You do not need to be cured, you need to be slain. Quit looking for a remedy and let death come. This is the only way to deal with self. Be careful however of that bitter bravery that decides to accept no remedy, for this itself may become a remedy in disguise, giving a type of satisfaction and comfort to your ego. Do not seek any comfort from self-love, and do not conceal the disease. Uncover everything in simplicity and holiness and then allow yourself to die…
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. (2 Cor. 4:7-11)
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12:9-10)
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:2-5)