There are times when the goals we set ourselves—like writing a blog post about one’s devotions every night—come second to the more important things in our lives. Things like spending time with the people we love, especially when they are facing struggles in their lives. It is easy to allow good goals to supercede the reasons and meaning for those goals. I want to write every day because it is good for me. I want to love my wife well much more than I want to write every night, though, and as such, I spent time with her instead of writing on my normal devotional topic, because she was having a bad day.1
This sort of decision is one that I have learned time and again is at the root of expressing Christ-like love to others, and especially in marriage. We, like Christ, are to die to ourselves and love others by setting aside what would be most immediately pleasurable for us and seeking instead the good of the other—at whatever cost to ourselves. This is not easy; indeed it can be painful and difficult at times to set aside one’s own desires for the good of others.2 But the reward—oh, the reward is far greater than the price we pay.
We see this in Christ’s work for us: he endured the cross, scorning its shame—but not simply because doing so was good on its own merits. Rather, the joy that he expected as the outcome of his doing so was the impetus behind his actions. Lest we think him acting selfishly, his joy is in our salvation and the Father’s glory. As C. S. Lewis points out,3 real joy is always found in seeking the good of others, rather than pursuing our own selfish ends. The joys we find in gratifying our own desires, rather than seeking to bless others, are shallow, pitiful things that fade quickly and are bitter in the end. The joy we find in seeking to put others first—above all, seeking to put God first—is lasting, profound, and sweet even in times of trial or pain.
So when tempted to do your own thing, don’t. Seek the joy God has set before you—the joy that comes in being sanctified, that comes in knowing God as he really is, that comes in finding the beauty and the value of others to be so much better than whatever selfish pursuit you might embrace instead. Die to yourself, lose the world, and gain everything. The alternative is to gain something temporarily, but lose everything in the end. Seek your joy where it is truly to be found: in loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbor—which is to say, that stranger on the side of the road, and also your spouse—as yourself.
- I am, instead, snatching out ten minutes just before bed to write this, much less reflective and with not a direct reference to Scripture (still less what I read today) to be found. ↩
- Jaimie, if and when you read this, take note: I am speaking of the troubles that face us all in dying to self. I enjoyed spending time with you tonight, and it was not burdensome to me. ↩
- Somewhere in some book I do not have close at hand at the moment. ↩