In seeking God, we let go of the things that interfere with the life of God. That’s the theory at least!
Psalm 16 v 11 is a gem:- “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Giving up the lesser in order to gain the greater does hurt sometimes. There’s no question that self-discipline can be quite uncomfortable, even painful. It does no good to deny the pain. But this pain we gladly accept if our hearts truly burn with the passion of what matters more to us than anything else in the world.
The ‘thou shalt nots’ that confront us are not arbitrary rules of a God who wishes to keep His creatures as unhappy as possible. There’s no inherent virtue in abstinence, for God does not expect us to give up things just for the sake of giving them up. Instead, there’s always some gift that God wants to place in our hands, a gift we’ll have no room to hold until we put down the load of lesser things we are presently holding. In persevering, we’ll see that God asked us to give up only those things that interfered with the exchange of authentic love.
Last summer revealed that gold medals aren’t won through self-indulgence. They’re won by years of focused training, the choice having been made to forgo other things that might have been enjoyed in order to single-mindedly pursue a dream. The athlete trains while wistfully watching others entertain themselves living for the moment; they live wisely for the goal.
Repeatedly scripture reminds us that hope has a purifying effect. “Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” 1 John 3 v 3. To the extent that our spiritual hope matters as much as we say it does, we’ll purge our lives of anything inconsistent with that hope, eager to abstain from things that even distract us from God. If we’ve paid the price to know what matters the most to us, and if we’ve realized that the only thing worth having is God Himself, then our daily choices will be much easier. The joy of the Lord will be our strength.
Or as the late Stephen Covey put it:-“We find ourselves able to say ‘No!’ to some things because there is a bigger ‘Yes!’ burning deep within us”