“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it. For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his own soul? What could a man offer to buy back his soul once he had lost it?” (Matthew 16:24-26).

George MacDonald sounds as tough as a medieval monk when he writes about denying ourselves: “we must refuse, abandon, and deny self altogether as a ruling, determining, or originating element in us. We are no more to think, ‘What should I like to do?’ but ‘What would the Living One have me do?’” He adds, “The self will be cunning and deceitful until it is thoroughly and utterly denied.”

Although severe about denying ourselves and emptying our wills, MacDonald communicates grand enthusiasm at the results. He describes our drawing fresh life from God by our “up looking will” and says that when we deny ourselves, we’re receiving God’s will and can shove aside our anxieties and fears. When we deny ourselves, we can see through God’s eyes and think His thoughts. When we feel his deep concerns and His compassion, we find purpose and guidance even in grim times.

We follow the Father’s guidance in the same way that Jesus followed his Father all the way to his heavenly home. The will of God becomes the driving force and zest of our lives—and ultimately the source of our joy.

Adapted from The One Year Book of Encouragement