Alright, y’all. It seems like life is a runaway train recently, and I’m chasing after it at a mile a minute. I need some efficiency. I’m craving some nourishment. At times like these, I need the spiritual more than ever. Want to get serious about the gospel with me for a minute? Let’s just get to the heart of it. Today, I’m discussing the things that really matter. As part of October’s theme, I’m sharing some thoughts about obedience.
Obedience is an unpopular idea. It goes against our natural survival instinct to be in control, to look out for number one.
An expert on survival, Victor Frankl, wrote one of the most impactful books I’ve read, titled Man’s Search for Meaning. As a Holocaust survivor, Frankl witnessed the extremity of human suffering while a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camps. He penned this transcendent truth:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
How I admire Frankl’s attitude and amazing willpower! When he himself was suffering cruelly, he reached out to empower others, his fellow prisoners, helping them understand the gift of their agency.
When we understand the importance of our will as “the last of the human freedoms”, the Savior’s example of obedience takes on new depth.
In Gethsemane, Christ took on the griefs, sorrows, transgressions and iniquities of the world. Isaiah 53 states, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isa 53:4-5)
Christ took upon Himself unimaginable suffering. In fact, even in the face of all the suffering ever known in the collective concentration camps, wars, and disasters in the history of the world, Christ exercised supreme obedience. When everything was taken from Him, Christ not only chose an attitude of forgiveness, He also gave that “greatest and last of the human freedoms” to God the Father. He declared,“Not my will but thine be done.”
Frankl’s distinct wording that the “last of the human freedoms is…to choose one’s own way” highlights our gift of agency. And, the next verse in the aforementioned quote from Isaiah emphasizes a poignant contrast, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)
If “our own way” is our most transcendent possession, what a worthy gift we give when we choose instead to be obedient to the Lord. Giving up our will to the Father’s will is the supreme act of discipleship. As Christ said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32).
The real wonder of it all is that no matter how much of our freedom we feel we’re giving up, the Lord always gives us even more in return. As we give our last human freedom to Him, He gives us in return the greatest eternal freedom: freedom from sin and death, freedom from hate, pain and sorrow.
This truth is expressed with the beautiful scripture, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9) And, in the words of Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
“We increase our love for our Heavenly Father and demonstrate that love by aligning our thoughts and actions with God’s word. His pure love directs and encourages us to become more pure and holy. It inspires us to walk in righteousness—notout of fear or obligation but out of an earnest desire to become even more like Him because we love Him. By doing so, we can become “born again … [and] cleansed by blood, even the blood of [the] Only Begotten; that [we] might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory.” (Moses 6:59)
He offers us everything. He offers us everything He is and has done. He offers it in exchange for the relative insignificance of our greatest gift to Him. His greatest gift or ours. I know which one I want. I pray for the wherewithal to sidestep the runaway train of my busy life and choose instead a walk in righteousness with my Savior.