In her letter to an aspiring missionary asking what missions life is like, Amy Carmichael wrote that missions is “a chance to die.” A chance to die. In the world in which Amy Carmichael lived being a missionary did most of the time mean risking one’s life, but I am certain that she was speaking not only of physical death but also of a death to ourselves. Having lived through several life-threatening situations on the mission field, I have determined that it this second kind of death which is much harder. It is one thing to have other people try to take your life and quite another to have to offer it up of your own free will. That really is what being a missionary is all about, in fact what being a follower of Christ is about. It is about dying to ourselves, to our selfishness, to our pride, to our rights, so that Christ may live through us all the more.
It can be challenging to die to yourself when it involves some physical sacrifice, when it means you must clean a toilet after someone or you must give up your meal times to counsel someone or you must sell your possessions for the sake of the Gospel or you are awoken in the night to solve some argument. But it is most agonizingly painful when you must die to your pride or die to your right to take offense when you are wrongly accused or when people hurt you or slander you. Hannah Hildebrand wrote in “Hinds Feet on High Places,” “All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories, and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about, or can only dimly guess at.” It is those little deaths which no one knows about, the quiet decision of the heart, the tearful resignation to the Father’s will, the whispered words of forgiveness – it is those deaths which are the most difficult. How easy it is to say we want to die for Jesus when our sacrifice will earn us some recognition or our death will win us some glory. But sometimes the hardest kind of dying is the kind where you have to go on living. Those are the people God is looking for, not superheroes or saints but those whose hearts are fully submitted to Him.