Please check out “Dying to Self” if you get a chance first, especially if you are not familiar with this concept. 🙂
For those who have been in abusive relationships, “Dying to Self” can sound like, “I just need to let people hit me and mistreat me and I need to be quiet and take it.” But that is NOT what Jesus is referring to when He talks about taking up our cross and following Him daily (Luke 9:23).
Yes, He is referring to that we are dead and we count ourselves dead to our sinful old nature, our flesh, and to this world. But we are alive to God in Christ. We have a new self that is glorious, blessed, beloved, cherished, valuable, precious, and beautiful in Christ. It is so important that we know what “self” we are to die to and what it means to take up our cross. And it is critical that we understand that from God’s perspective, Jesus did everything for us about all of this. He did the dying. He was resurrected and won victory over sin and death. And it is His Spirit’s power that fuels us and enables us to walk in obedience to Him every day. Jesus’ finished work on the cross is more than enough to make us right with God. It is past history in God’s sight.
And yet, there is also the part of our Christian walk where we get to consciously participate in allowing God’s Spirit to have more control and we get to make decisions with our free will based on all that Jesus has done for us. It is not that we earn God’s love or we earn salvation. We can’t! We want to obey God because we are so thankful for all Jesus has done for us.
My understanding of the concept of “dying to self” is about laying down my will and taking up God’s will. It is about consciously deciding to be a “living sacrifice” for God every day (Romans 12:1). And this process is also about laying down any sinful motives. So I would allow God to search my heart for things like selfishness, greed, bitterness, idolatry, resentment, hatred, unforgiveness, malice, gossip, addictions, etc… things that are spiritually toxic to my soul, my relationships, and my walk with Christ – and I would reject those things and allow God’s Spirit to completely fill me with His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I receive that I have died in Christ and am dead to this world and to my sinful nature and then I put on all that Jesus provides for me on the cross. I receive all that He is and His goodness into my life.
There are some who have been severely abused and mistreated who do not believe they are worthy to receive God’s love. Truthfully, none of us are “worthy” to receive God’s love. But God loves us because that is who He is and His love is available to each of us. We CAN receive His love, not because we deserve to, but because He freely gives it! For those who have a hard time receiving good things from God, I invite you to check out this post by Radiant about Cinderella and the Gospel. I also encourage wives who have been abused and who are confused about dying to self to search and read some of these posts as well:
- Do I Condone Abuse?
- 25 ways to respect myself
- I Can’t Ask for Things or Have Feelings, Needs, or Desires
- I Must Avoid Conflict at All Costs
- Healthy VS Unhealthy Relationships
- What Does God Say about Me?
- My Identity in Christ is My Only Source of Security
- Finding Healing for Hopelessness
And, http://www.leslievernick.com and “Boundaries” by Dr. Cloud and Townsend may be helpful in this kind of situation.
I believe we must find spiritual healing and wholeness in Christ FIRST before they learn to die to self in a healthy way. If a woman is very broken and has lived with a lot of abuse, and she tries to “die to self” before understanding her identity in Christ, I think there can be serious and dangerous misunderstandings.
FROM THE SATISFIED WIFE:
I think you are right on in what you shared about this. And something else hit me as I read this comment. In my experience, because I was mistreated for so long, and suffered in that sense for getting involved with the wrong kinds of men, and not having a strong father figure in my life, I became completely self-reliant and independent, with a heart hardened to the harsh realities of life. And in being mistreated and developing that independent spirit, looking back I see actually how selfish I became. That sounds wrong, but hear me out if you can 🙂
Because I was mistreated and grew up mistreated, and did not develop a healthy self-worth, and developed that desire in my heart to be loved and wanted and all those idols that are attached to that desire—-it actually made me self-centered. All I cared about was what I wanted, what I needed, what I wasn’t getting from this guy or my father or whoever. My husband pointed this out to me a long time ago, really right after we got married, he saw how selfish I was and how focused I was on having my needs met in the marriage. And because my needs and expectations weren’t getting met the way I wanted them (with the never ending black hole heart), I was disrespectful, complaining, negative, argumentative, controlling, etc.
That’s what happens when we are mistreated in life, as a young woman, we become fearful and controlling because we feel the need to protect ourselves because we have not been treated right. We become independent and self-reliant.
So when God led me to Himself, and revealed Christ in my heart—— that was one of the first things He showed me. He led me to read the book “Not a Fan”, and it was all about dying to self and following Christ. I remember how eye-opening that was for me, because my selfishness was exposed.
And as the years have gone by, He has continued to lead me to the true meaning of dying to self and following Christ, by leading me to your blog, and to the book captivating— and now I see all the pieces put together to this puzzle for me.
He has shown me that in reaction to the way I was mistreated by my own father and men in my life, my heart grew very cold and I became even more selfish. I was living in self-protection mode which entails controlling and fear for my whole life really. All I cared about was myself, honestly. I wanted what I wanted.
I’m not saying it’s ok for anyone to treat someone wrongly. But what I am saying is that, I had an even more challenging time learning how to die to self because of being mistreated and having developed a very independent self-reliant spirit that was highly selfish. I looked at everything my husband did through the lens of my wounded, selfish heart, instead of through Christ and the Cross. I had no idea that my wounded heart was behind all of the control, fear, and disrespect. I didn’t realize that wounded heart was behind a lot of the conflicts in marriage. It was harder for me to “let go” of control and all the fear and self-protection and it was hard to learn to truly trust God and surrender all to Christ. But once He opened my eyes, holding onto those things seemed like garbage compared to surrendering all to Him as Lord and having His peace and rest in my heart!
Now that I know who I am in Christ, and who my husband is in Christ, I have a hard time focusing on the things he does wrong. Letting go of myself and my own personal interests has been the way of finding true Life!