Image via author, Bighorn Range, Wyoming
Among my wilderness partners of years gone by were several people who had this interesting response to the question, “How is it going?” If things were not going well, the answer was a kind of code that let you know times were difficult. I heard it most often when someone had been hurt on one of our many adventures. You would break out the medical kit and begin to look over the injury, and the conversation would go something like this:
“Dude, that looks like it really hurts.”
“Yeah, man. I’m hatin’ life right now.”
Sometimes when things are going quite poorly, people may think they are hating life.
Jesus used the idea of hating one’s life in a totally different context. In Luke 14:25-27 He was speaking of giving up one’s preoccupation with his or her own life to pursue our God as our magnificent obsession.
“Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Here Jesus is telling us that He is of such enormous value that if we thought about it, we gladly exchange everything to pursue Him. This magnificent obsession would make all other pursuits seem inconsequential, and it might seem like we hated the rest of our living.
The old hymn written by Helen Lemmel rings true to every person who has made God their magnificent obsession:
O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.
Isabella Trotter, an English artist and missionary to Algeria, wrote some words in a little tract that touched Helen Lemmel; “So, then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”
Since the inception of the New Covenant, true disciples have found that when one becomes fixated upon our Savior and Lord, the things of this life grow strangely dim. Such a fixation will lead into a deep intimacy with Him that eclipses all other loves and surpasses all other pursuits. Life becomes the very life of Christ Himself in the person. It grows in one and takes over one’s priorities. Then one enters life to its fullest, like rivers of living water flowing into and out of the person.
Hudson Taylor called this “the exchanged life,” for he had found that when he exchanged his life and loves for those of the Savior, his life was transformed, a transformation that was remarkable to all who knew him.
The life of persecuted disciples is a continual testimony of this transformation that flows into those are pursuing their God in this way. From the beginnings of the New Covenant church until now, true disciples have faced torture and death because they did not love this world or even their own lives. They were gladly willing to die if it would bring honor to the Lord. In this sense, they hated their life as Jesus spoke of it.
What would bring people to “hate this life,” meaning to forsake all to be inhabited fully by His life?
The answer is, in a word, love. When one gives oneself over to loving our God above all, life is reorganized and priorities reordered. This love settles all lesser issues and establishes a new, peaceful, joyful life that endures even in the most trying of circumstances. The great promises of our God for abundant living, peace, joy, and rest for our souls become reality when God is loved with all one’s being.
I have found this in my own life. If it seems the promises for this life are not being fulfilled in me, it is likely that the problem lies with my self-living. God is not holding out on me or on anyone else. The self-life always gets in the way of my love for God and His life in me. What I need – what we all need – is repentance from all self-oriented living to love God above all. It is this repentance from self and the self-life that Jesus refers to in the Luke passage. Such whole-hearted repentance for all self living, self-management, and self-direction is the essence of hating this life.
Yep, I’m haitin’ life right now. My God is coming through for me as I do. It’s kinda cool.