I would like to introduce you to the J-curve. I read about this concept in a review of new book by Paul Miller, entitled “The J-curve,” with the subtitle “dying and rising with Jesus in everyday life.” I have not read the book as of now, but I sure like the thesis Miller presents. “It’s simple, it’s brilliant: The Christian life is shaped like a capital J. You descend on the left and rise on the right.”
Miller writes, “If rising is embedded in dying, then not running from the customized dying that God permits in our lives is essential for resurrection.” Many years ago, when I was a young Christian, trying to find my way as a follower of Jesus, I was struggling with how I might be able to live a Christian lifestyle, after living for myself, during my first eighteen years.
I remember being fully committed. I was all in for Jesus. So the issue was not my desire to follow Jesus. The problem was my old nature, what Richard Foster calls “habitual patterns of sin.” I was new believer, who had a lot to overcome. I remember reading a small book entitled “The Calvary Way.” The author talked about being broken before the Lord. I was convicted as I read.
For the first time in understanding my new life in Christ, I realized that it would be a matter of death to my old self. So the idea of “dying to self” and then “being raised with Christ” has remained an important foundation to my spirituality. “You see” writes the author Roy Hession, “the only life that pleases God and that can be victorious, is His life…..we can never be filled with His life, unless we are prepared for God to bring our life constantly to death.”
Some have called it “the crucified life.” Being asked to die is not something we men are naturally willing to embrace. But that is exactly what the J-curve entails. Remember men, Jesus calls us to come to him and die to ourselves. “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambitions shoulder your cross and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life” (Matt. 16:24-26)
Like I said, being asked to die and give your life to another is not easy. But this is the way of Jesus. Like me, you will have your ups and downs with dying and being raised up. I appreciate Miller’s illustration of “the trapdoor.”
We are not able to control the dying and the rising. Miller says of himself, “I’ve had some long times when I was sure I was at the bottom. I could begin to see some hope coming, and then there was a trapdoor, and I went down again. Sometimes I’ve gone through a series of trapdoors and I keep thinking I’ve bottomed out.”
Take it from me, you are going to go through trapdoors when you least expect them. You will know when you have fallen into one of them. It is a dark, lonely space, void of peace, with little hope on the horizon. Don’t fight it. Surrender and die to your “selfish ambitions” and cry out to Jesus for mercy. Remember to keep looking up and out as you cry for help. He will hear you and rescue you.