How can we practice self-denial in such a me-centered culture? How can we become more self-controlled if we are seldom forced to tell ourselves ‘no.’ Perhaps it’s healthy to put ourselves in situations where we have to practice self-control by denying ourselves.
“Why am I doing this?” It’s a question I often ask myself mid-run.
I was on mile eight and had about four more to go. My legs were already tight and the hill before me loomed large. As I made my way uphill my thighs screamed for more oxygen causing my heart to beat faster to supply it. My lungs burned as they tried to keep up. My legs, heart, and lungs were all sending the same signal to my brain, “STOP!”
In that moment I’m faced with a choice. I can give in to the cries of my body and slow down to a walk, which would almost immediately stop the pain. Or, I can tell my body ‘no’ and keep pushing through the pain to the finish line.
Self-Denial in a Selfish Age
We live in an age where self is king and the greatest act of treachery is to deny the king what he wants. Self-denial is a foreign concept in our culture, yet it seems to be at the heart of following Jesus. Consider Jesus’ words: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). If we want to follow Jesus, he said we must deny ourselves.
Let’s be honest, we are not very good at denying ourselves are we? We often seem to lack the self-control needed to deny ourselves. If I desire I juicy hamburger, I can go through the drive-through and get it within minutes. I don’t even have to get out of my car or put nice clothes on.