A paradox is a statement or situation that seems to contradict itself. For example, it has been said of the ocean: “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!”
Those who take Christ at His Word, and are not afraid to put that Word into practice in their lives, eventually discover what I call the Divine Paradox of Christianity.
The people of this world who want nothing to do with God seek their own gratification. And yet, it is they who possess the unhappy and discontented faces of those who never find these things. It is they who are cheated of happiness and peace. But those who have completely renounced the world and all of its diversions in order to follow Christ and be found in Him radiate a joy that is not of this world – a joy that is able to sustain them in poverty or pain which the things of this world cannot offer.
Is it possible that many of us are unhappy because we have not emptied ourselves out in the manner that God desires?
A New Experiment
I want to share with you something that I discovered many years ago when I was living in Texas. At that time, I was absolutely miserable, depressed, and discontent, but I could not understand why. My husband was making decent money due to overtime, so there was plenty of extra cash to squander on material goods and trips, which I completely gave myself over to. And yet, the misery and discontentment remained. I then decided to give myself over to an experiment.
From now on, instead of doing what I wanted to do, I would do what I believed Jesus would want me to do. Instead of losing my temper and insisting on the last word, I would hold my peace and let someone else have the last word. Instead of spending something on myself, I would give the money to the poor. Instead of vegetating in front of the television, I would spend that time in prayer. In all things I did the exact opposite of what “self” wanted.
What I discovered completely revolutionized my walk with Christ. I felt the nearness of Christ everywhere I went. A joy and peace which had never been a part of my life before were now my constant companions. For the first time in my life I knew what it felt like to walk in the power of God’s Spirit.
When Mother Teresa would see an unhappy nun in her convent, she would say to herself, “Ah, she’s holding back on Jesus.” Mother Teresa learned early on that most of the time, when people are unhappy, it isn’t so much their circumstances that are causing the unhappiness as much as it is the degree to which they are yielding to Jesus in the midst of those circumstances.
The supernatural joy of the Holy Spirit and the total surrender of our will to God go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. When I find myself getting miserable, this is usually a telltale sign that I have hopped off the cross to which I have been crucified in order to pursue my own will instead of my Lord’s. Every single time I start doing what I want to do, saying what I want to say, thinking what I want to think, going where I want to go, and acting like I want to act, the first two things to depart from my life are Christ’s joy and His peace.
When a person is on his death bed, and then he dies, we say, “He is no longer suffering; he is now in peace.” While he is on his death bed, he is in agony. But once he dies, he enters into Christ’s rest and peace, and he suffers no more. Brothers and sisters, we apply these things to the physical, but not to the spiritual.
Total Surrender, Total Peace
Many of us are still in “agony” because we are not allowing ourselves to die completely with Christ. Only when we have completely relinquished our will and surrendered ourselves completely to God can we enter into His rest and His peace. Until then, it can only be said of us that we are in the agonies of death.
It is not possible for us to possess the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit or to walk in the power of Christ’s resurrection if we are still holding on to even the tiniest fragment of self. Death must be complete or we will never enter His peace. If death is not complete, then we are still in the throes of it, and it is this that causes the agony. But when death is complete, one experiences a sweet release and enters a world and a blessed realm that he or she has never known.
When I am cheated of His joy and His peace, it is because I have not completely died. But when I die, when I completely surrender my will to that of my Beloved, my spirit is released from the agony of self-control and enters into the joy and peace of one who is God-controlled.
Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Mt 10:39) This is the Divine Paradox of Christianity. It is a paradox that defies all human reasoning and brings logic to its knees. Only when we humble ourselves, can we truly be exalted. Only when we empty ourselves, can we truly be filled. Only in letting go can we truly embrace. Only in giving can we truly receive…
…and only in dying can we truly live.
Header Image CC Lawrence OP