One of the hardest parts about living the Christian life is letting go of our own life’s expectations and allowing God to direct our way. This is especially hard today where we are bombarded by society’s message that we should follow our desires and constantly gratify our wants. Our culture has become obsessed with following money, social acceptance, popularity and trends. Society tells us to seek our own will, but as sons and daughters of Christ, we are called to something much more challenging and radical: to deny our own will and replace it with God’s. In other words, we are to die to ourselves.
When we were baptized, we died to our old selves and were reborn in Christ. St. Paul writes in Romans 6:4 writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” It might seem strange to pair the words baptism and death together, but this is just one of the beauties of our faith. By dying to sin and our own selves, we make room for God to come into our hearts and souls to work His marvelous and wondrous plan in us so that we can have a new life in Him.
Dying to our old selves in Baptism does not mean that we don’t struggle with sins or the draw to sin because of our pride. Through Baptism, God opens us up to His graces so that we can share in His marvelous plan, but it takes a life time of denying ourselves. In This Tremendous Lover by M. Eugene Boylan, Boylan states: “If, therefore, baptism is considered as a death, it is a death to ones self that only takes place gradually; the sentence of death is passed at baptism – for there we renounce the world, the flesh and the devil – but the carrying out of that sentence is a work of a lifetime, and will only end in our grave.” Denying ourselves does not happen instantaneously. Rather, we need consciously and continuously work on denying ourselves and our wills each day.
Jesus confirms this idea that we need to deny ourselves in order to follow Him in Matthew 16:24. He says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” When we deny ourselves and our wills we are telling the world that there is something greater that we are living for. No longer are we living and existing for ourselves, but rather, we are living and existing to praise and worship God by following Him and His own will. Remember, the Christian life is not about ourselves but about following Christ.
Living for Christ is a continuous struggle. Our self does not want to die to itself and will put up a fight. However, we always have a choice because of our free will. We have to ask ourselves daily, “Will I live this day for myself or for Christ?” We can not win this fight alone, but we must always ask God for the graces to follow His will.